Major League Baseball is in negotiations with its 160 minor league teams about efforts to “reorganize elements of the system” that could reduce the number of affiliated teams from 160 to 120, according to reports.
The current agreement between MLB and the minor league teams — called the Professional Baseball Agreement — expires at the end of the 2020 season. MLB is looking to make some major changes, according to reports, that would overhaul all levels of the minors, particularly at low Class A and below.
Baseball America was the first to report the proposal and detail the restructuring.
Major League Baseball issued a statement to The New York Times saying that discussions are ongoing.
“We are in discussions with the owners of the Minor League teams to reorganize elements of the system with the goal of improving the working conditions of minor league players,” the MLB statement said, “including upgrading the facilities to Major League standards, increasing player compensation, reducing travel time between affiliates for road games, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, increasing the number of off days, and providing better geographical affiliations between the MLB clubs and affiliates.”
Other major changes would involve overhauling full-season minor leagues and shuffling teams throughout the Triple-A, Double-A, high Class A and low Class A levels into leagues that are more geographically friendly, according to Baseball America.
According to the reports, the 40 teams at the lower levels that are not included in this venture would be reclassified into a “Dream League,” which would be run jointly by MLB and Minor League Baseball and would include players who were not selected in the draft, which under this proposal would be moved from June to August and reduced to 20-25 rounds from the total of up to 40 in its current format.
According to The New York Times, Pat O’Conner, the president of Minor League Baseball, sent a letter warning teams of “significant impending changes” and advised not making any major decisions, including financial commitments, beyond the 2020 season.
Some minor league teams would lose existing affiliations with major league franchises under the proposal, according to the reports.
MLB mulls shorter season, full prorated salaries for players
Unable to yet reach a return-to-play agreement, Major League Baseball has discussed playing a shorter schedule in which it would pay members of the MLB Players Association their full prorated salaries, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
Though MLB does not intend to propose this to the players, the possibility of implementing a schedule of around 50 games that would start in July has been considered by the league as a last resort in the event the parties can’t come to a deal, sources said.
Players have held out for a full prorated portion of their salaries based on a March 26 agreement with the league, and in an offer Sunday proposed a 114-game schedule that would cover 70.3% of their original salaries. A 50-game schedule with full pro rata would pay the players 30.8% of that number.
Language in the the March agreement appears to give commissioner Rob Manfred the right to deliver a season schedule after “good faith” discussions between the league and the union.
“Based on that feedback received from the Players Association,” the agreement reads, “the Office of the Commissioner will construct and provide to the Players Association, as promptly as possible, a proposed 2020 championship season and postseason schedule (or multiple schedule options) using best efforts to play as many games as possible, while taking into account player safety and health, rescheduling needs, competitive considerations, stadium availability, and the economic feasibility of various alternatives.”
In the first section of the agreement, under the “Resumption of Play” heading, it reads: “By entering into this agreement, the Office of the Commissioner, the Players Association, the Clubs, and Players recognize that each of the parties shall work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence, play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and post-season that is economically feasible.”
A shortened schedule would run in contrast with what the players sought in a proposal sent to the league Sunday. The league’s first proposal to the union offered an 82-game schedule with significant salary cuts. Multiple players told ESPN they would not abide a shorter schedule, with one saying, “We want to play more games and they want to play less. We want more baseball.”
The league, which has contended it will lose money each game it plays without fans and with players making their full pro rata, has pushed for a shorter season due to fears of a second wave of the coronavirus potentially wiping out its postseason and the revenue that comes with it. The economic feasibility language in the scheduling section also could serve as a rationale from the teams for a shorter season.
MLB intends to propose shorter season, full prorated salaries
Major League Baseball intends to propose a shorter season in which the league would pay players a full prorated share of their salaries, sources told ESPN.
The league believes the late March agreement allows it to set the schedule, and that this would fulfill players’ pro rata desire.
The potential season Major League Baseball envisions would run somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 regular-season games, sources told ESPN.
The exact number is being considered, but the aim would be to return in July.
The news comes a day after the MLB Players Association delivered a return-to-play proposal that called for a 114-game season.
The union has remained steadfast that players should receive their full prorated salaries. MLB’s original proposal called for significant pay cuts that affected the highest-paid players the most but covered all levels.
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