At least one current Cubs affiliate will be a casualty of Minor League Baseball’s restructuring that will see more than 40 teams lose their MLB affiliation and dozens more change organizations. The assumption from the start was that the short-season Eugene Emeralds were at greatest risk given their location and the Northwest League’s move to full-season ball and that now appears to be the case.
While nothing has been officially announced at this point, the Ems have removed all the Cubs gear from their team store. The website still lists them as a Cubs affiliate, presumably because making those changes would be a much clearer signal to the world beyond Eugene that the relationship is being severed.
As further evidence of the impending move, I present this very simple response from @AllanEmsGM to my tweet last week about the merch removal. That handle isn’t just some burner for a die-hard fan with bigger aspirations, it’s Ems general manager Allan Benavides. So unless he’s just pulling my chain or swapping out old merch for new, a transition is taking place.
— Allan (@AllanEmsGM) November 24, 2020
As likely as this move was from the moment the eventual MiLB changes were announced, it still sucks. Eugene was a great Cubs partner and a favorite of prospect hounds because all their home games were on MiLB.tv and they offered live glimpses of young players getting their first taste of pro ball outside of Mesa. Not to mention their apparel is really sharp.
There should be more official announcements coming soon about the fates of Eugene and the other members of the Cubs system, but it doesn’t look like much else will change. Iowa will remain the Triple-A affiliate, Tennessee is also very likely to remain at Double-A, and South Bend is nearly a lock to move to high-A with the Midwest League. That leaves Myrtle Beach as the real question mark, with heavy speculation that they will stay with the Cubs and move to the low-A South Atlantic League.