The Cubs are on the verge of moving some of their highest-profile minor-league prospects closer to Chicago by next season.
Sources say the Cubs are in the process of working out a player development agreement with the Geneva-based Kane County Cougars in an effort to switch their Midwest League affiliate from Peoria - putting those Class A players 120 miles closer to Chicago.
Cubs officials declined comment on the move, which is expected to be announced early next month after the minor-league season ends.
Several high-profile players acquired in team president Theo Epstein's first draft this year could be part of next year's Kane County roster, including No. 6 overall pick Albert Almora.
Cougars general manager Curtis Haug, whose team should benefit on multiple levels from the affiliation switch from the small-market Kansas City Royals, would neither confirm nor deny the move when contacted by the Sun-Times.
``The Kane County Cougars' organization enjoys the great professional relationship with the Kansas City Royals right now,'' Haug said, ``and in accordance with major league baseball rules, we will not comment on any existing or future player development contract involving our organization or any other organization.''
The change would mean ending a relationship the Cubs have had with the Peoria Chiefs for nearly 30 years between a 10-year affiliation in the 1980s and early '90s and the current eight-year affiliation.
It's where Greg Maddux and Mark Grace played on the way to the majors, where Ryne Sandberg started his managing career, and where one of the team's top current prospects - outfielder Jorge Soler - now plays.
Peoria Chiefs president Rocky Vonachen did not return a message left Tuesday but told the Peoria Journal Star:
``[The Sun-Times report] definitely caught us off guard. It's the first we've heard anything like that.''
The Cubs' current player development contracts with two other Class A affiliates - in Daytona, Fla., and Boise, Idaho - also expire at the end of this season, but the club plans to renew ties with those teams.