The purpose of the minor league baseball system is to develop players available to play in the major leagues on demand. Through player development contracts between the major league and the minor league teams, these independently owned and operated minor league teams form a Major League teams "farm system." This system was formalized by Branch Rickey of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930's.

While most relationships between major and minor league teams last many years, some change does occur. For example, in 2007 the Columbus Clippers changed affiliations from the New York Yankees to the Washington Nationals.

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