The Chattanooga Lookouts and Minnesota Twins displayed their commitment to one another Wednesday with the signing of a four-year player development contract.
That commitment is especially evident with the Twins, who have partnered with a Class AA franchise that within months could undergo a change in ownership. Bill Smith, the former general manager of the Twins who now serves as a special assistant to Minnesota's GM and president, visited Tuesday night and Wednesday with Lookouts owner Frank Burke and Lookouts general manager Rich Mozingo.
"We have enough confidence in our own organization that we can work with anybody," Smith said. "We've been with other player development arrangements where there have been ownership changes, and we're confident in our side of the relationship that whoever they sell this club to, we will work well with them. We just went through this in New Britain (Conn.) two years ago, and we've had a great relationship with the people up there. Frankly, Rich's role is probably more critical, because he's our day-to-day guy.
"We've been in Rochester (N.Y.) for 12 years. We were in New Britain for 20. We've been in Fort Myers (Fla.) for 20. We come to stay."
Smith has been with the Twins for 28 years and has known Burke most of that time. The two served for a decade together on Minor League Baseball's board of trustees.
Minnesota's director of minor league operations, Brad Steil, accompanied Smith to Chattanooga and also expressed his trust in Mozingo, adding, "I don't think we have any concerns at all."
The two Twins officials arrived at an AT&T Field that no longer had "Dodgertown, Tennessee" gates out front or the "Lasorda's Landing" sign above the seats down the first-base line. Mozingo will soon get to work on a uniform makeover, while Steil in the next few weeks will have to determine Chattanooga's 2015 coaching staff while also monitoring prize outfielder Byron Buxton.
Buxton, an outfielder from Baxley, Ga., was Baseball America's minor league player of the year in 2013, and he began this season rated by mlb.com as the No. 1 prospect in the minors. He sprained his left wrist in March, aggravated it in May and returned in July only to be hit by a pitch on the right wrist.
His difficult season was shut down last month, when he suffered a concussion in his Double-A debut.
"We'll have to see where he's at in his development following the Arizona Fall League and spring training," Steil said. "Obviously he's just missed a year, and it's pretty unlikely that he'll be able to just skip over Double-A after not playing."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.