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Cubs finalize deal to move Class A Peoria team to Kane County

Updated: September 19, 2012 6:39PM

A month after it was first reported in the Sun-Times, the Cubs on Wednesday officially announced an agreement to switch their Midwest League affiliate from Peoria to the Kane County Cougars – putting a key Class A affiliate just a suburban commute from Wrigley Field.

``I’m a big fan of having as many affiliates as possible close by the home city,’’ Cubs president Theo Epstein said. ``It just creates a lot of efficiencies with rehabs and allows front office and staff to see the team play a little bit more often.

``It also gives our players a feel for the market. Before there’s too much pressure on them, they get an understanding of how important baseball is and get to know the fans a little bit. And then obviously it’s good for the affiliate with the link to the hometown team. Hopefully, it can be a win-win.’’

The immediate impact for Cubs fans not only a glimpse of the future during this rebuilding process, but what figures to be their best hopes for the process.

Epstein’s first draft pick, No. 6 overall pick Albert Almora, and his front office’s top international free agent, 20-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler, both could be on the Kane County roster next season, along with other highly regarded prospects such as slugger Dan Vogelbach.

In breaking from Peoria, the Cubs end a longstanding relationship that included the development of such players as Greg Maddux and Mark Grace and the managerial debut of Ryne Sandberg.

The Peoria Chiefs turned to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player-development contract, renewing a past affiliation.

``That was a great relationship, too,’’ Epstein said in thanking Chiefs ownership. ``It’s never easy [to break ties], but you just try to handle things professionally. … Just from my own experience in Boston, when we had Pawtucket [R.I.], Portland [Maine] and Lowell [Mass.] nearby, I think there’s no replacing proximity. It’s an outstanding feature to have if you can have a number of affiliates close by.’’

Epstein left open the possibility that Kane County could change its nickname to ``Cubs,’’ but he said it hasn’t been discussed.

The Cubs on Wednesday also announced they’ve renewed their PDCs with Class A Boise and advanced-A Daytona.

All three new agreements are two-year deals that run through 2014.

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