Bristol Baseball, Inc., the non-profit that operated the White Sox' Advanced-Rookie Appalachian League affiliate, the Bristol White Sox, announced today that Bristol will now be affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bristol was one of two Advanced-Rookie affiliates of the White Sox (along with the Great Falls Voyagers) and ordinarily hosted the least-experienced prospects.
This is an interesting development because the Chicago White Sox owned the Bristol White Sox. More curious still is that Player Development Contracts (PDC) - the agreements between Major League teams and their minor league affiliates - are two or four year deals that only expire in even number years. Obviously, 2013 is not an even number year. While there aren't many details yet on what the exact details of this transaction look like, it appears that the White Sox sold the club to the Pirates.
The relationship between the White Sox and Bristol hasn't been entirely smooth over the past few years. In 2009, MLB informed Bristol that the playing field at DeVault Memorial Stadium was unacceptable due to serious infield drainage issues. Bristol Baseball, Inc. struggled to get the funding to make the necessary improvements, in large part because the economic conditions at the time foreclosed the possibility of public funding (DeVault Stadium is owned by the city of Bristol).
They managed to raise the $125,000 necessary to make the improvements and did so prior to the 2010 season. The White Sox re-upped their PDC through 2012.
As the club was owned by the White Sox, one ordinarily does not hear about renewals of PDC by club-owned affiliates. One would assume that the PDC was again extended per the usual terms, until at least 2014.
Regardless of the behind-the-scenes dealings, Bristol won't be an affiliate in 2014. The White Sox already announced that they would be fielding an Arizona League team in 2014, so that is where players who probably would have gone to Bristol will play.
It will be interesting to see what the White Sox decide to do (if anything) when PDCs are up after 2014. A reasonable move would be to try to get a Short-Season A affiliate, as that would make a very nice bridge piece between Advanced-Rookie Great Falls and Low-A Kannapolis. The vast majority of non-MLB team owned clubs in the two short-season leagues, the NY-Penn League and the Northwest League, have their PDC expiring after 2014 so the White Sox would have plenty of potential options should they pursue one.