Well this is a Friday afternoon bombshell, and the implications are going to take a long time to sort out.
In response to growing calls to improve the minor league systems across baseball – from player compensation to facilities to safety – and as part of ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the minor leagues, MLB is proposing a significant and fundamental change to the minor leagues. That would include improving player compensation and facilities, but it would also include essentially removing all short-season leagues (i.e., leagues below full-season Low-A South Bend), dropping about 40 minor league teams entirely, and also cutting the draft down from 40 rounds to 20 to 25.
You can read about the proposals here:
MLB has proposed a radical plan to restructure the Minor Leagues and as many as 40 teams are in the firing line to change their status or perhaps even be eliminated. https://t.co/vo9HC7922l
— David Waldstein (@DavidWaldstein) October 18, 2019
Been working on this for days…https://t.co/PyrCySbTO5
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) October 18, 2019
In addition to the reduction of teams, the rest of the leagues would all be restructured pretty significantly, including more geographic consideration. MLB organizations would be limited to four full-season teams, and one rookie-ball team. That’s it.
As for the remaining, sizable portion of hopeful players who aren’t drafted, they would go into a newly-created “Dream League” operated by MLB and MiLB, which would essentially just be like the Independent Leagues you’re familiar with.
So much more in the articles above, so if you want more on the proposal details, dig in there.
If adopted, this proposal would kick in for the 2021 season.
Among my many immediate concerns: what is player develop development going to look like for very young players now? Will professional development be available ONLY for IFA signings? And young draft picks? But only in full-season leagues? How does that make sense?
Imagine what happens to an organization like the Cubs, who want to invest deeply at all levels of their farm system – we were just discussing the changes today! – now having the lowest, youngest tiers of the farm system just chopped off. What the eff?
Another huge concern is the way these short-season leagues in remote areas help promote the overall goodwill of the sport of baseball. Sure, it might be easy to quantify how much money a short-season team in Eugene makes or doesn’t make in a given year, but how do you quantify what it means to the looooong-term (think decades) health of the sport, when that sport being healthy is the very basis for your product (MLB)? Like, don’t we think it’s maybe a good idea to have lots and lots of access to professional baseball of any kind all across the country? Don’t we think that helps kids get interested and/or stay interested in the sport as they grow up? Is a “Dream League” really still the same thing? And will there be as many? Where will they be located? How will they be promoted to fans?
I know this is just one proposal in what could be a protracted negotiations, but my gut reaction is pretty negative. Maybe I just need more time to mull, and more information. But right now, this just looks like a way to dramatically shrink the pool of players who have to be paid, while offering a token pay raise to the players who remain (who wants to bet that the net will be a reduction in the total of what’s paid out to players?).