Major League Baseball Proposes Sweeping Changes to Minor Leagues

New proposal would potentially eliminate 42 teams

Centennial Field
Burlington, Vermont is one of many small cities across the country home to a minor league baseball team.
Fancy-cats-are-happy-cats/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / October 19, 2019 12:59 pm

For many fans of the sport around the country, their closest baseball team isn’t part of Major League Baseball. No, it’s very likely that the home team that they’re (root, root) rooting for their home teams in one of the many minor leagues that act as a way to develop players for MLB teams. 

Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are linked through something called the Professional Baseball Agreement, a relationship that has existed in some form since 1903. The latest of these, which runs through 2020, formalizes the relationship between the two entities. As one article from 2011 describes it, it “provides industry stability with its assurance that Major League Baseball will field at least 160 Minor League teams.”

That might be changing, though — and in a big way. A new report from J.J. Cooper at Baseball America explores Major League Baseball’s latest proposal, which would change the way a host of teams operate, and possibly lead to the closure of dozens. 

At the core of the negotiations, MLB is looking to dramatically improve Minor League Baseball’s stadium facilities as well as take control over how the minor leagues are organized as far as affiliations and the geography of leagues. Those areas have been under the control of MiLB for the past 100-plus years and would lead to a dramatic restructuring of how MiLB is governed and operates.

Cooper’s article has plenty of details on MLB’s proposal, which would geographically realign some leagues and shift certain teams from one league to another. It also includes potentially bringing some independent league teams into the fold, and moving the 42 teams who would no longer have a league affiliation into a new league for undrafted players. All told, it would have a massive effect on baseball on all scales, and could adversely affect the small cities who might end up losing their team due to this new agreement, to say nothing of the players who might find themselves short a team to play for.

However it works out, the clock is ticking: a new Professional Baseball Agreement must be signed before the 2021 season.

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