With the current affiliation dance, a lot is unclear how the minor league landscape will look like. Dance is definitely the wrong word as MLB decides and minor league teams have to accept. But what will the future of the Texas League look like. This is really drawing my interest as the San Antonio Missions are rumored to be put back in that league.
At the end of the 2018 season, the minor league landscape was shaken up when the Elmore Sports Group moved several teams to make AAA baseball in San Antonio possible. To make room for AAA baseball, the original San Antonio Missions moved to Amarillo, TX to become the SodPoodles. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox moved to San Antonio to fill the void and to adopt the Missions’ moniker. The void in Colorado Springs was filled by the rookie ball Helena Brewers that became the Rocky Mountain Vibes.
But as the agreement between MLB and MiLB ended at the end of the 2020 season, MLB committed a coup d état and seized power. As a result, MLB is reshuffling the minor leagues and even independent teams are joining the ranks of affiliated ball. Not strange if you know that those indy clubs also lost a lot of money during the 2020 COVID-19 season. In fact joining affiliated ball is an act of desperation. Take the St. Paul Saints for example. Earlier this year the club claimed not to be interested in becoming a Minnesota Twins affiliate but now the rumors about that move are getting very strong.
According to Ballparkdigest.com all PDCs with Texas League teams will likely be extended, at least with those clubs that are not owned by parent clubs. But… Ballparkdigest.com also stated that the San Antonio Missions are scheduled to be sent back to the Texas League.
But that would create a weird situation. As the Texas League now has eight members (Amarillo SodPoodles, Arkansas Travelers, Corpus Christi Hooks, Frisco Rough Riders, Midland RockHounds, Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Springfield Cardinals, and Tulsa Drillers), the league would get nine teams with the addition of the Missions. One doesn’t have to be a whizkid to realize that this is not an ideal situation.
With the addition of the Missions, the Texas League will be on a fork in the road. One direction will lead to the addition of another club, so the number of members will rise to ten. The other direction will lead to the contraction or move of one of the other teams.
With the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Frisco Rough Riders, the Springfield Cardinals and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in relatively proximity of their parent clubs, the other teams are not as close. A solution for the Amarillo SodPoodles would be an affiliation switch with the Colorado Rockies as they are the closest MLB team.
The Midland RockHounds and the San Antonio Missions (if moved to the Texas League) may be the best option for one of the three Southern California MLB teams (Angels, Dodgers, Padres). But that may leave the Arkansas Travelers out as they are not as conveniently located as the other teams are. The Tulsa Drillers are also not located conveniently compared to other clubs but the Dodgers reportedly are happy with their AA farm team, so those two will likely stick together.
I know this is all like reading the tea leaves but with the minor leagues having no say anymore, MLB has proven that anything is possible. Since MLB is talking about location and geography, the elimination or the move to an independent league of the Arkansas Travelers may become a serious option. The closest indy league would be the American Association but then that league would have the same problem of an odd number of teams. Another possibility would be taking the place of the Sugarland Skeeters (independent Atlantic League) that likely will become the AAA affiliation of the Texas Rangers.
[EDIT] Someone on Facebook suggested that with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp moving up to AAA, there will be a vacant spot in the Southern League. The Arkansas Travelers, located in North Little Rock, could move to the Southern League as they are relatively close to the area the league plays in.
Right now we can only guess. Especially because MLB is not really generous with information about upcoming moves.