Report: MLB Proposes Drastic Restructuring of Minor League System

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A minor league baseball stadium

As many as 42 minor league teams would be stripped of their affiliation with MLB clubs under a proposal brought forward by the league, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports

The wide-ranging proposal was made during negotiations for a new agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball. The current contract governing the partnership between the big leagues and the minors expires after the 2020 season. 

Under the proposal, the number of minor league clubs affiliated with MLB teams would be cut from 160 to 120. Two of those 120 teams would be the current independent franchises in Sugar Land, Tx., and St. Paul, Minn., Cooper reports, leaving 42 of MiLB’s current teams without ties to an MLB franchise. The teams at risk of losing their affiliation are those with facilities MLB has deemed to be sub-standard. 

Franchises stripped of their affiliation would not be left without baseball entirely, though. The plan, which also includes reducing the MLB draft from 40 rounds to as few as 20, calls for the creation of a “Dream League” for undrafted players seeking to land a contract with and MLB team. Dream League teams would be owned jointly by MLB and MiLB. Other former affiliate clubs would operate teams in an MLB-associated collegiate wood-bat league. 

The reduction in the number of affiliates is part of a larger overhaul of the minor league system that would see many franchises reclassify between the Triple A, Double A and Class A levels with the goal of making the individual minor leagues more geographically compact in order to reduce travel time. Teams would be asked to pay a fee to move into a higher level or would be compensated financially for moving from a higher level to a lower one. 

The reduction in minor league teams would be accompanied by limits on the number of affiliates MLB teams are allowed to operate (five) and on the number of players they are allowed to sign to minor league contracts (150). The reduction in the number of players could lead to an increase player salaries, Cooper reports. 

In anticipation of the seismic shift, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner sent a letter to teams urging them not to make major commitments beyond 2020, David Waldstein of The New York Times reports