If you’ve been following along for the last week with this series you’ll notice that this article’s title is a little bit different. That’s because this part isn’t about the possible ramifications. This is about what I’ve been hearing from some people in and around baseball, as well as my own thoughts on the situation.
I’ve talked with plenty of people in the baseball industry over the last week about this whole situation where Major League Baseball proposed eliminating 42 teams from the minors and essentially just having a complex level rookie team, then the four full-season teams in every organization. The short-season rookie level teams, for the most part, would cease to exist as affiliated teams. You can read about that, and many of the other ideas that were proposed by Major League Baseball at Baseball America.
For the most part the belief is that this proposal is just an “opening offer” and used as a scare tactic of sorts to try to get what the teams and Major League Baseball is really after: More Money. Right now the teams in the minors have to pay a set amount (per level) of ticket sales to the Major Leagues. The higher the level the higher the percentage of a ticket sale goes to the Major League teams. Perhaps this is where the Major League teams want to see their share increase. Or perhaps there’s another aspect – but either way, many of the people I spoke with felt that the players are going to start being paid better and Major League Baseball wants the minor league team owners to cover some of the raises that are going to be coming. Ticket sale increase, or just outright agreeing to cover a certain percentage of the player pay – the big league clubs want help paying for it.
When it comes to the facility upgrades that were talked about – this wasn’t something that most felt was much of an issue. Many did have an example or two of places that probably needed a real upgrade. But by-and-large they agreed that it was something that the minor league owners would be willing to take care of if it meant the difference between not having a team that’s affiliated or not having a team that’s affiliated.
But there were a few people that I spoke with who were a little more concerned. JJ Cooper noted that there was at least some concern that the number of teams could be pushed even further down to 90 teams in 2026.
One thing that kept coming up in my reporting on this. MLB's initial proposal is for a new 5-year PBA (usually they have been 7 or 10-year terms in past). Heard concerns from several that 120 teams in 2021 could become 90 in 2026.https://t.co/PyrCySbTO5
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) October 18, 2019
While most felt it was merely a negotiating tactic, a few people I was able to talk to were more concerned that Major League Baseball is rather serious about cutting teams out. Clearly at least one source that Cooper spoke to felt that way, too.
When I brought this up with one source they brought up several issues that would make it quite unlikely. First is the fact that the legal battles would go on forever. Team owners aren’t going to have the rug pulled out from under them without a fight. Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner said as much, publicly, in the Baseball America article. But there’s also some of the cities/towns that have helped fund stadiums for these teams that may lose teams – they also aren’t likely to just go quietly into the night and throw their hands up in the air.
Before I started reaching out to people in the minor league business on the non-Major League team payroll, I felt 99% confident that this was all a big, public threat of sorts. Something to get people talking. Something to put pressure on the team owners to accept they were going to have to kick more money in to the Major League teams to cover an increase in salary.
Today? Well, I still feel fairly confident that’s the case. But I do feel there’s more of a chance this could be a bit more than a threat to try and get more money out of minor league teams. I’d still say I’d put it at like a 90% confidence level we won’t see teams get cut out. Still, the concern a few that I spoke with had who believed it to be an actual possibility, along with the tweet by JJ Cooper about a concern from someone that another drop could be in store for 2026 left me with at least a little concern.
If you wanted to read the rest of this series from the last week, the links are below.
- Part 1: The reduction of jobs all around baseball and towns in America.
- Part 2: The future impact on baseball with the loss of professional baseball in towns all across America.
- Part 3: What this could mean for both international players and signings, as well as the drafted players in America, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
- Part 4: The benefits of the reduction of teams but increase in pay and amenities for the players and staff that would remain.