"Bubba" mentioned the Cubs signing a player-development contract with the Tennessee Smokies in a comment and asked about the other openings in the Southern League. It seemed logical to start a new thread about that.
www.ballparkwatch.com is a great place to track the affiliate shuffle -- and any off-the-field baseball news. They list three Class AA openings (San Antonio, Mobile and West Tenn) and three major-league teams needing affiliates (Mariners, Padres and Diamondbacks).
San Antonio had the Mariners and wants to look around. San Antonio will get first choice among the three suitors. Mobile will get the second pick and West Tenn will get whatever team is left.
There are two other affiliates where the signings are only a formality: Bowie and the Orioles, Reading and the Phillies.
The Devil Rays won't be back in Michigan. With Southwest Michigan becoming the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Mich., the new franchise is flirting with the Dodgers, according to the site. The Rays could stay in the Midwest League (Clinton, Iowa??) but would prefer a South Atlantic League entry. Savannah and Columbus, Ga., are open. Savannah would be a better situation for the Rays.
The Dodgers will probably move their spring training to Arizona in two years and may sell their Vero Beach franchise in the high-Class A Florida State League to the Devil Rays. The Rays will move the franchise to their new complex in Port Charlotte that opens in 2009. If that happens, I'd expect the Rays to stay in Visalia for the next two years.
The affiliate dance will end this week. After that, Minor League Baseball starts matching up stragglers.