Updated 9/22: The Volcanoes have reached out and informed us that the Giants and Volcanoes renewed their PDC through 2020 as of June 15, Opening Day of the season, so all is well.
Teams didn’t wait for the final Minor League Playoff game of the year to get a wild season of affiliation changes underway. But for the San Francisco Giants, only one affiliation is possibly going to change.
Of the Giants’ five affiliates, they have extended their partnership agreements with four of them; only the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes remains unextended. The Volcanoes are the Giants’ short-season A-ball affiliate, one of the lowest levels of the Minors. It is often home to the Giants’ top draft picks, and was where #2 overall pick Joey Bart spent much of the season.
There has yet to be a report as to why this particular Player Development Contract (PDC) hasn’t been extended, and opting out is a decision that can be made by either the Giants or the Volcanoes. Volcanoes ownership has stayed steady, with owner Jerry Walker having been a part of the group since the team moved to Keizer in 1997. The Giants named David Bell their new Vice President of Player Development before the 2018 season. However, it’s unknown if that particular move is the reason behind the lack of a PDC.
Teams often change affiliations for several reasons. Closer geographic ties to their Major League team is one, although in the Northwest League, only Seattle is heavily affected by that. Better facilities are another factor. In Short-A ball, the facilities are often far smaller than what is seen at other levels.
There are three PDC agreements up for grabs in the Northwest League: Salem-Keizer, the Spokane Indians (with Texas), and the Tri-City Dust Devils (with San Diego, based in Pasco, WA). Spokane has the oldest stadium in the league, but it’s a former Triple-A stadium that’s been renovated several times. Pasco’s stadium is smaller and opened all the way back in 1995, two years before the Volcanoes opened theirs.
Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, Oregon, is a small stadium with a capacity of 4,254, but has received recent upgrades. In 2016, the Volcanoes opened a new indoor training facility featuring batting cages and pitching machines. The team rents it to the public most of the year, except when the Volcanoes are at home from June through the start of September.
The Giants have been affiliated with Salem-Keizer’s organization before it was in Keizer. They affiliated with the Bellingham Mariners (to become the Bellingham Giants) in 1995, and the team moved to Keizer, OR, to become the Volcanoes in 1997. That is tied for the longest current affiliation in the league with the Mariners and the Everett AquaSox. Everett had been a Giants affiliate before, and the two organizations effectively switched teams.
The Volcanoes and Giants affiliation has been one of the most successful in the Giants’ organization, at least in terms of on-field prestige. Since 1997, the Volcanoes have won five league title and seven division titles. However, the Volcanoes have not won either since 2009. The partnership also saw a historic Eclipse Delay on August 21, 2017, the first known Eclipse delay in baseball that drew thousands of fans.
The Giants had renewed their other PDCs before this season. In March of 2016, the Giants signed 4-year agreements with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats and Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. The Single-A Augusta GreenJackets agreed to a 2-year extension in October, 2017, taking their agreement through 2020. The GreenJackets extension occurred days after David Bell was named VP of Player Development, but they opened a brand-new stadium for the 2018 season. The San Francisco Giants have an ownership stake in the San Jose Giants, so that cannot change.