It’s essentially a buried storyline given the craziness that’s been 2020, but Minor League Baseball (MiLB) will look significantly different heading into next season.
A proposal to reduce the number of MiLB teams from its current 162 to 120 has gained traction to the point where it looks to be the most likely outcome. At the time of this writing, every minor league team *technically* does not have a big-league affiliate. Imagine a gigantic game of musical chairs, and everyone’s trying to grab one of the 120 seats. That’s how things currently feel.
I believe we’ll have a baseball season next year. I’m not sure what it’ll look like, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have a COVID-19 vaccine, and we can finally take steps towards our new normal. The pandemic-related changes will represent part of the wide-sweeping differences throughout our game. JJ Cooper of Baseball America has done an excellent job keeping all informed throughout the process, and I highly recommend his latest piece.
Aside from COVID-19, here are three of the most significant changes you’ll see once Minor League Baseball Returns:
1. It’s no longer MiLB, as we know them
The first thing you need to know is about what was known as the “Professional Baseball Agreement,” or “PBA.” Based on the reports we’ve seen, the version of Minor League Baseball as a private entity is ending. Now, MiLB will be what amounts to a division of Major League Baseball. The offices located in St. Petersburg, FL, will now be moved to New York City, and we’re likely to see MLB and its teams take on a more active role with its affiliates, or perhaps something by a different name…
2. Licensees over Affiliates
While we’re talking about affiliates, here’s a twist coming to that as well. Affiliates are about to be amended for the term “licensed affiliates,” indicating it’s under MLB’s control instead of a private entity. The change became common knowledge when MLB announced the hiring of MiLB owner Peter Freund to help the transition as MLB takes over the minor leagues’ operations. Originally, MLB proposed an agreement that included Professional Development Licenses to replace affiliation agreements. One of the most significant effects that could have would be within sponsorships, and it’s an area that the two sides will have to work long and hard to iron out.
3. Realignment, Games, and Travel
Another of the biggest questions comes in the form of logistics. There’s a substantial financial incentive for teams to reduce travel costs, and realignment could certainly help in those efforts. More than likely, many of the leagues we’ve come to know over the past few decades will have a different look. Some clusters we’ve come to know at one particular classification may be at a new collective level altogether, and there may be a few changes to the teams either in number or in location.
I think the chance to save on travel will be one of the most prominent angles of whatever new agreement comes along. As for the timing of when that happens, I’d expect to hear something before the new year.
While our society prepares for its new ‘normal,’ so will many professions. Minor League Baseball is squarely in that group, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how things will look when we hopefully return to play in 2021.
What other changes do you see coming to baseball in the years ahead? Leave a comment below and find Dan on Twitter at @ThatDanHasty?