Baseball America has an article regarding some big changes that could be coming to minor league baseball in the near future. The proposed changes would cut the amount of teams, the amount of players signed, increase the pay of the remaining players and cause multiple changes to the draft.
It’s a lot to take in, but I want to hit the key points right now in my mind, then we can expand upon it later when more details are released. It’s important to remember that it’s just a proposal at this point and the two sides (MLB and MiLB) still have plenty of time to negotiate.
** The big thing here is the amount of teams potentially getting cut. The basic idea is to get rid of the short-season leagues that aren’t considered complex leagues, leaving 120 full-season teams total. For the Pirates, that would mean losing two teams. The DSL and GCL would still exist (those are complex leagues) but the levels of Advanced Rookie and Short-Season A-Ball wouldn’t exist. It’s important here not to say that Bristol and Morgantown specifically would be eliminated because some of these short-season teams would become full-season clubs, replacing current teams. Most (or all) teams in the Appalachian League would be gone due to inferior facilities, but some of the New York-Penn League clubs have facilities that are better than full-season clubs and they could replace them.
** A cut in teams would mean a cut in players. When teams sign players, they need to be put on a roster somewhere. Each affiliated team MLB clubs have has a roster limit between 25 and 35 players. Adding an extra affiliate gives you the ability to sign more players, while eliminating them means players would need to be cut immediately once/if the new rules go into effect. As an example, if the rules went into effect today, the Pirates would need to release over 70 players. The rule isn’t going into effect right away, even if they agree on a deal before the deadline, so there will be a natural cut of players over that time and you likely won’t see teams cutting 70+ players at one time.
** The draft in this proposal would be moved back to August and shortened to 20-25 rounds. Undrafted players would get a chance to play in a dream league situation, which is set up specifically for them to continue their pro careers without having a contract with a big league team. It’s similar to playing for an independent league team, though it would be run by MLB/MiLB.
** With fewer minor league players, the salaries for the remaining players would increase. The article suggested a 50% increase, which is actually what the Toronto Blue Jays did on their own this year for all of their players. Eliminating later rounds in the draft and numerous filler players would mean that a much higher percentage of the remaining players received a decent/big bonus to sign. Those aren’t the players that really needed the pay raise, but there would be a much smaller number of players struggling along in the minors under the new rules.
As I said, it’s a lot more complex that just those rules, but those are the ones that stand out to me. It’s also just a proposal at this point, so there could be some differences between what you read and what actually happens. It’s something we will be following closely.