Baseball's Charleston RiverDogs Expect Tampa Bay Rays to Join |  Smaller leagues

Baseball’s Charleston RiverDogs Expect Tampa Bay Rays to Join | Smaller leagues

Charleston RiverDogs has a new affiliate, one with a history that gives the low-class Class A baseball club top talent.

The Tampa Bay Rays and RiverDogs will officially announce a player development contract on Wednesday, sources told The Post and Courier. The Rays and South Atlantic League’s RiverDogs worked together from 1997-2004 before RiverDogs signed with the New York Yankees, a relationship that lasted until November this year.

The Rays while building a farm from scratch sent such top drafts as Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, Roccol Baldelli, BJ Upton and Delmon Young to Riley Park.

But as a much better Major League club that continually outperforms thanks to innovative analysis – The Rays lost to the Dodgers in the 2020 World Series – Tampa Bay will draw late in the first round in 2021. And probably for years to come.

The Charleston affiliation switch is a small step in Major League Baseball’s massive overhaul of a minor league system that started last spring, but was slowed down by a coronavirus that wiped out 2020-affiliated minor league baseball.

The South Atlantic League Columbia Fireflies will also land a new affiliate on Wednesday. SALs Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) and Class A Carolina League Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Chicago Cubs) are expected to stay with the parent clubs.

The RiverDogs or Charleston teams by other names (Royals, Pirates, Rainbows) had been in the low-level Class A South Atlantic League each season from 1980 to 2019. They were affiliated with the New York Yankees from 2005 until the Yankees announced the end of their PD Development contract with Charleston in early November.

Minor league changes include cutting between 25 and 33 percent of teams below the Class A level in a move designed to cut costs and travel plans.

Peter Freund, who is in a RiverDogs ownership group led by Marvin Goldklang and including comics Bill Murray, is also part of the new MLB Draft League. The concept includes six former teams from the disbanded New York-Penn League, including Freund’s Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters. The teams will be in stock with draft-qualified players hoping to improve their stock ahead of the MLB draft, which has been pushed back to Major League All-Star Week in July.

Freund is the president of Trinity Packaging Corporation, a privately held plastics company headquartered in Armonk, NY

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

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