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Minor League Baseball overhaul unveiled

Minor League Baseball logoGoodbye International League, Sally League and Pacific Coast League: MLB’s reorganization is unveiled, with the four levels of Minor League Baseball marketed with ahistorical monikers.

Wiping out over a hundred years of history, MiLB will be run in four levels–Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A (or, as charmingly named by MLB, A-). The announcement comes after Wednesday’s deadline for teams to accept the MLB invitations to join the new 120-team MiLB, and as we predicated, all 120 signed the Professional Baseball League (PDL) license that drastically overhauls the MLB-MiLB relationship. No, the irony that the Appalachian League and Pioneer League live on and the Texas League goes away is not lost on us–though we’ve received mixed signals about whether these league names will remain as announced or be altered in the future, perhaps sold to sponsors a la the NBA’s G League, with rights in this case sold to Gatorade.

“We are excited to unveil this new model, which not only provides a pipeline to the Majors, but continues the Minor Leagues’ tradition of entertaining millions of families in hundreds of communities,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a press release. “In modernizing our Minor League system, we prioritized the qualities that make the Minor Leagues such an integral part of our game while strengthening how we develop professional athletes on and off the field.  We look forward to demonstrating the best of our game throughout local communities, supporting all those who are working hard to grow the sport, and sharing unrivaled technology and resources with minor league teams and players.”

Some of those improvements, per MLB, include:

  • Player salary increases ranging from 38-72% for the 2021 season.
  • Modernized facility standards better suited for professional athletes.
  • Improved amenities and working conditions for players and staff.
  • Reduced in-season travel for players and coaches.
  • Better geographical alignment.

Not all of this is due to the MiLB reorganization: player salaries are completely in control of MLB and weren’t really part of this agreement. MLB could have raised MiLB player salaries at any point. And a reorganization based on geography certainly was not controversial: MLB says parent teams will be on average 200 miles closer to their Triple-A affiliates, which isn’t as impressive as it sounds. A Target Field/CHS Field Green Line shuttle sounds great until you realize teams play half their games on the road, which means the Twins might need to call up a player from the St. Paul Saints when both on the road–say, when the Twins are in Seattle and the Saints in Columbus.

Other aspects of the agreement, such as the new facility standard, could have been worked out with MiLB. But there are plenty of changes to the MiLB operating structure not covered in the MLB statement: a shift from the MiLB franchise system to the MLB licensing system (giving MLB all the power in the relationship), MLB’s new “taxes” (for lack of a better term) that takes 5 percent of a purchase price from an owner selling a team as well as a fee for the buyer, more MLB involvement in ballpark leases, and more. Owners certainly were not working with their hearts and minds in deciding to accept the new PDL license; they signed because they really had no choice.

So here we are with new league structures and arrangements:

Now, if you’ve been reading our coverage for the last year-plus, the league reorganizations are not a surprise. Still, the fact that grand, historical names like the Southern League and the Carolina League are going away is a little distressing.

Here’s the most up-to-date information about the status of current affiliates and where former affiliates landed.

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