The Cincinnati Reds and Louisville Bats announced on Wednesday that they have extended their player development contract through 2020. Their previous agreement was set to expire after the 2018 season, so this is a 2-year extension.

The Reds and the Bats have been affiliated with each other since the 2000 season. They had previously been with the Indianapolis Indians for seven seasons. Louisville is the second longest running affiliation in the organization behind the Billings Mustangs.

Louisville Bats President Gary Ulmer had this to say about the extension:

We are pleased to announce the extension of our player development contract with the Cincinnati Reds through the 2020 season. We value our long-term partnership with Cincinnati and hope to be the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate for many years to come.

Reds director of player development Jeff Graupe also shared some thoughts on the new extension.

The Reds are extremely excited to extend our partnership with the Louisville Bats. We look forward to the challenge of returning to the International League postseason and understand the responsibility to provide improved on-field performance in 2018 in an effort to reward a tremendous fan base.

Bats and Reds: A strained relationship?

Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal, however, believes that there is some strain in the relationship. The Bats have had six consecutive losing seasons, with the 2017 squad posting a 56-86 record. Going back to 2011, their last winning season, attendance has dropped from 601,372 (8716 per game) to 467,024 (6868 per game) in 2017. That’s a 21% decline in attendance in seven seasons.

There’s plenty of benefits in having a Triple-A team and Major League team being close to each other. It works well to for both teams. To a point. The Triple-A team benefits from having a larger built in fanbase. The big league team keeps a strong hold in that market, and it makes player moves a bit easier to handle.

But, there are also limits, too. The Triple-A team needs to make money, and the attendance dropping so much is not helping the bottom line. While it may not be all due to the losing, some of it probably is. The Reds, and all Major League teams aren’t in the minor leagues for winning games. They are in it for developing players to help them one day win games in the Majors. Winning in the Minor Leagues is a side product, that while nice, isn’t direct “need”.

Hopefully the Reds can stay healthy and put the Bats roster in a better situation than it’s been over the last few years where it’s been raided to due to so many injuries with the big league club. Keeping Louisville in the system makes things a lot easier for many reasons. Moving to another affiliate would push the fanbase further away. It may also alienate some of the Louisville Reds fanbase, which could make a small dent in Reds attendance over the summer, too.


10 Responses

  1. Brad

    My understanding has been that MLB has a mileage rule in place that would give the Reds first right of refusal to any minor league affiliate within 90 miles of Cincinnati. Would include Louisville and Dayton. Bats can be as upset as they want, won’t have much of a choice.

    • Doug Gray

      I know the rule definitely includes Dayton. I do not know if it does with Louisville or not.

      • Bubba Woo

        Obviously, with the news today, it won’t be happening in the next few years, but could you ever see a scenario where Dayton would be given a chance to join the International League and be the Reds AAA affiliate? Dayton is a similar sized market to Louisville, and has a near twenty year track record of being one of the best supported minor league teams in the country.

      • MK

        I know there is a 45 mile rule which is considered Reds territory. Any County within 45 miles in any direction from GABP home plate is considered a teams territory and no team can expand to those counties.

        Dayton has been around since 2000 also.

  2. The Duke

    Glad to see it extended. It’s a natural fit to have the AAA club so close.

    • TN

      This is not correct. First of all, the territorial restriction is not 90 miles, it is based on counties, and Louisville is outside the Reds protected territory. So the Bats could talk to other clubs if they wanted to. Secondly, the territorial restriction is not a right of first refusal on a partnership, it is a block on putting a team in the territory to begin with. That is why there was no Minor League Baseball in Dayton for 50 years. Prior to the 2000 season, the Reds waived the block on the Dayton market under the condition that the Dayton club will always be a Reds affiliate. There is no such arrangement with Louisville. It is outside the territorial block.

      • TN

        Sorry, my last post was meant to appear as a response to the post above regarding the suggested 90 mile right of first refusal.

  3. MK

    Maybe the Bats should check with Dragons and see how they continue selling out with a number of miserable seasons in a row, A few years ago the Dragons had a 22 or 23 game home losing streak and they still sold out every game.