Occasionally, a team identity exists with the overriding knowledge that it is a temporary team, and that relocation or rebranding is in the works. There are a few forms this can take, and sometimes teams are more explicitly temporary than others.
On this page, I’ll keep a running list of teams that I perceive to be placeholders, and give a brief synopsis of their story. This is an active and certainly not comprehensive list. I will continue to add as I uncover more teams.
Pure placeholder teams:
Buies Creek Astros. After the 2016 season, the California League contracted by two and the Carolina League expanded by two. One of the new franchises was owned by the Houston Astros, who made plans to build a stadium in Fayetteville, NC, that would be ready by the 2019 season. In the interim, they needed a placeholder team for two seasons. After touring around to college towns in the North Carolina region, they settled on Campbell College in Buies Creek for a two-year deal.
Danville 97s. When the Durham Bulls were “promoted” from high-A to Triple-A following the 1997 season, the empty shell of the Carolina League franchise needed to go somewhere. It took time for prospective cities to develop their plan, and in 1998, the Atlanta Braves needed a high-A affiliate. A new team was created out of thin air in Danville, Virginia, where the Braves already had their Appalachian League team. Following the season, the franchise was moved to Myrtle Beach, where they now play as the Pelicans.
Queens Kings. It’s not exactly clear to me what the machinations surrounding the Queens Kings story were, but if I were pressed to sum it up, I would say that there was a plan in place for a ballpark to be built in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and that a NY-Penn League franchise and stadium would be affiliated with and operated by the New York Mets starting in 2001. But first, the NY-Penn League franchise (the St. Catherine’s Stompers) was purchased and moved to Queens, New York. My guess is that the Toronto Blue Jays (who owned the Stompers) were ready to sell to the highest bidder, and the schemers in the Big Apple saw their opportunity to get a team. The stadium still needed to be built though, and the franchise still had to play out the string of their PDC with the Jays, so a lame duck team was created and housed in the Brooklyn’s neighboring borough.
Placeholder teams that didn’t work out as planned:
Tucson Padres. The San Diego Padres bought the Portland Beavers in 2010, with the intention of eventually building a Triple-A stadium in the San Diego suburb of Escondido. In the mean time, they stuck the franchise in Tucson, Arizona, a Pacific Coast League ghost town, and called the team the Padres. Stadium plans fell through, though, and after three seasons, the team was sold again to a group that moved them to El Paso.
Assumed placeholder teams:
Greenville Bombers. After the 2004 season, the Capital City Bombers were moved from Columbia, South Carolina to another Palmetto State city. Though a new stadium was being built in Greenville, the team was moved one year prior and the Bombers identity was maintained for one season with little alterations. When the park was built the following year, the team did a complete overhaul on the brand, becoming the Greenville Drive.
Jersey City Jerseys. In 1960, Fidel Castro nationalized all US-owned businesses operating in Cuba, and this included the International League’s Havana Sugar Kings. In response, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick made the announcement that in July, the Havana franchise would be moving to Jersey City, New Jersey. Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium had been vacant since the JC Giants had moved ten years earlier, and the city likely wouldn’t have otherwise been a strong contender for a Triple-A team. When you factor in the complete lack of effort in establishing a marketable brand, it seems that the Jerseys were merely a stopgap until another more suitable market came along. After the 1961, Jersey City was moved to Jacksonville, making the Jerseys a one-and-a-half-year wonder.
Rockford Reds. The Cincinnati Reds affiliated with the former Rockford Cubbies in the late nineties, with full knowledge that a nice, new ballpark was being erected in nearby Dayton, Ohio, and likely with additional knowledge that the Rockford franchise would be the one moving to Dayton. Anticipating this, the Reds inked a PDC with Rockford after the 1998 season, and the team played one year as the Rockford Reds. There’s some speculation here, of course, but that’s my read on the story.
Vero Beach Devil Rays. This is somewhat similar to the Rockford example. Once the Los Angeles Dodgers moved their spring training from Vero Beach, Florida, to Glendale, Arizona in 2009, it was likely clear that any Florida State League franchise in Vero Beach had a hazy long-term future. Another story had unfolded earlier in the decade, when the Texas Rangers vacated Port Charlotte, Florida, also for Arizona spring training. The Rays had since renovated the Charlotte stadium, and had also signed a PDC with the Vero Beach franchise. In 2009, after two (speculatively) lame duck seasons, the Vero Beach Devil Rays were moved to to Charlotte, and became the Stone Crabs.