If things in the baseball world weren’t already crazy enough, a minor league contraction lead to a major shakeup.
Per sources, MiLB is set to agree to what once were lofty terms. The proposed reduction by the MLB to reduce minor league count from 160 teams to 120 teams. Such a concession was once unthinkable but has now come into the scope of reality. The recent COVID-19 pandemic as already altered the landscape of baseball. As of Wednesday, the MiLB and the MLB will be meeting via a teleconference to discuss team reduction and more.
Some sources have said that there has already been common ground found between the two sides. That common ground has to do with outstanding issues already laid out by Major League Baseball.
The exact details regarding timetables have not yet been decided, but the overall glaring need of improved facility standards have been agreed on. MiLB has come out and signaled its understanding of the current Player Development Contracts situation. What was a looser controlled setup for MLB will now be tightened. With modification to the PDC’s, MLB clubs would have greater control over choosing their affiliates. Both sides have also agreed to work on other items such as travel time and improving the geographical setup of leagues.
The prevailing thought is that MiLB is expected to agree to one of the biggest demands set forth by MLB. Should everything go through, each MLB team would have four full-season affiliates plus a Rookie-level team at spring training complexes. All this comes as the MLB has already made the decision to cut the overall length of the draft in 2020 and 2021.
Should both sides agree to these terms, that would mean roughly 42 teams would see their tie to the MLB cut off. That would mean eliminating short-season and some Rookie leagues. It would also mean the addition of two independent league teams in the St. Paul Saints and the Suger Land Skeeters.
While cutting those 42 teams would be devastating to those involved, there’s still some silver-lining. Both the MiLB and the MLB are working on a deal to ensure as many of those 42 markets as possible would still have ties to the major league level. Initially, with their plan last year, MLB proposed a “Dream League” and a wooden bat league for collegiate prospects that would effectively replace affiliated ball.
There were concerns raised by MiLB on that front over financial stability over the long term. Now both sides will be working together to ensure almost all 42 cities will have some sort of tie to the MLB level. That’s even without fielding draftees or signees.
While some agreement between the two sides is good, there are still various details that need to be addressed. That includes the financial impact including exactly what type of support would be given from MLB and MiLB affiliated teams.
A Change of Heart
Ultimately, while it’s nice to see an agreement between the two sides, it’s a sharp contrast to what was going on pre-COVID-19. MiLB was already in the midst of starting a public relations battle. Now that the virus has altered the baseball landscape, MiLB teams are just trying to survive. For MiLB owners, the biggest desire on their plates simply includes long-term stability. Basically some assurance that their franchises and values will be protected that provides a successful path for as many teams and cities as possible moving forward.
It will be interesting to see the level at which MiLB teams and owners will go and how far they will be willing to bend. Something to watch out for would be a potential plan for MLB to take nearly all control over MiLB governance. Should something like that come to light, it would cripple any control MiLB teams would have. On the other end, it provides long-term security for MiLB teams, which they have been fighting for, for so long.
The teleconference meeting is expected to address several of the issues if not all of them. Either way, the sport of professional baseball will look a little bit different in the upcoming years.
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