Monday sure had a whole lot going on in the world of Major League Baseball. At first there was a scheduled meeting of the Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Board (made up of the 30 player representatives for each team, and then an 8-member group of veteran players) at 3pm to vote on the latest 60-game proposal from MLB. But that vote was moved to 5pm after MLB came in with some last minute changes to their plan to try and get the players to vote yes on their plan.
It didn’t work. The players voted no. That put MLB/Rob Manfred in the position to implement a season based on the agreement the two sides both signed up for back in March. But it was reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today that MLB would not take that step on Monday night, or even on Tuesday. That, too, turned out to be wrong. Less than 90 minutes after that report, Major League Baseball put out a release that they would be implementing a 60-game schedule according to the March agreement as long as the players would agree to show up in on July 1st for “spring training 2.0” and agree to the health and safety protocols by Tuesday at 5pm ET. Nothing is official, but it seems like this is going to be agreed to.
But it’s one thing to have Major League Baseball back. But what does it mean for the minor leagues and the players there? Well, honestly, we still don’t know much. But let’s tackle what we do know. We know that rosters are going to be expanded on the Major League level. And we know that there is going to be a “taxi squad” of players. We do not yet know how many players will be on that “taxi squad”, though we’ve heard anywhere from 50-60 total players between it and the big league roster.
While the minor league season has not yet been officially cancelled, we pretty much know that there’s no way it’s going to happen. The incentives simply aren’t there for anyone involved in the decision making process. Minor league teams make their money selling tickets and merchandise. They can’t have fans right now. There’s just not enough money there to make opening the gates and turning the lights on worth it.
But we have heard rumors of a potential expanded, and early starting fall league this year. The Arizona Fall League now takes place in mid-September, starting earlier than it has for the most part of it’s existence. But the rumors are that it could possibly start in August, and have many more teams – basically operating out of the spring facilities with somewhere between a team to a team-and-a-half worth of players for each organization. The sites in Florida would do the same thing for the organizations that have operations there. Nothing is remotely close to official on this, and just like everything else, it’s all up to our hateful companion COVID-19.
Let’s pretend that we get through everything as smoothly as possible. The Major League season happens, and the expanded early fall league season also happens. When it comes to minor leaguers, not everyone is going to get a chance to get back on the field this year. But in this “perfect” scenario, more than a few of them will.
Let’s assume that there’s a 60-player roster for the big league season between the active and taxi rosters. That’s going to be made up of probably 20-25 guys who are true “minor leaguers”. Not counting your Derek Deitrich, Nate Jones types who might get to hang around with expanded rosters/taxi squad rosters. And then let’s assume that the fall league expansion plan happens and teams send 50 more players out to their spring training site to get some action on the field for six weeks.
That would put a total of about 75 players on the field that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten out there if no baseball had happened. Most organizations have about 250 players under contract at a given time in the minors. Some have upwards of 300 depending on how many rookie level teams that they have. That’s going to leave plenty of guys away from the diamond, at least in an organized team setting. But there could be some guys out there getting some work in, developing with the team and coaching staffs this season.