It wasn’t that long ago that Major League Baseball took the steps to eliminate 40 teams in Minor League Baseball. They essentially got rid of any and all rookie league teams that were not played at the complex level in the United States. For the Cincinnati Reds that meant that they lost both the Billings Mustangs and Greeneville Reds from their farm system. With that also meant the loss of 70 roster spots for players, as well as a number of coaching and other team assisting jobs within affiliated baseball. While the last few years may have felt like a decade or two for some of us, that was just over two years ago when that happened. And it seems that Major League Baseball wants to trim things back even further.
Evan Drellich of The Athletic wrote about some of the things around the economic system in Major League Baseball and what the MLBPA’s executive director Tony Clark had to say over the weekend about many of those related topics. One of those topics was negotiations between MLB and the newly added minor leaguers to the MLBPA over a collective bargaining agreement for minor leaguers. One thing MLB wants is the ability to have the power to cut jobs or additional minor league teams if the players association wants to make improvements. Clark said that is a “non-starter”. For their part, Major League Baseball declined to comment when contacted by The Athletic.
MLB tried to get this into the collective bargaining agreement a year ago, too. And even then, when the minor league players were not a part of the MLBPA, the MLBPA said no. In the past there was always the chance that MLB could try to entice the big leaguers with something that was just good enough to have them give in and sell out the minor leaguers. But with the situation today where MLB has to negotiate with the actual minor league players they can’t do that and the current minor league players almost assuredly aren’t going to sell themselves out and allow the cutting of more jobs (let’s say they want to have just one A-ball team instead of two – even something as simple as that would eliminate nearly 1000 player jobs).
As a lifelong baseball fan I will have to say that the “braintrust” at MLB has done and continue to do everything in their power to drive me away as a fan. I always have enjoyed the minor league games and had attended games at several of the cities that lost their MLB affiliation. Personally I hope to support the independent and draft league teams in the future. If MLB gets their way and eliminates more teams that would drive me further away. And while I am sure there is a great deal of cost involved with supporting the MiLB product, they benefit so much from having a well designed development system. It’s one of the few things that baseball has over the NBA and NFL and rivaled only by Hockey among the major sports.
Interesting article in Fangraphs speaking of the Reds chances in 2025.
Thanks, I agree with some of what the author said, but I’m scratching my head a little about the payroll issue. I don’t read all the comments on the internet, but do many Reds fans now believe the Reds will not spend like they did in 2020 when they were over 130 million? Is there good reason to believe they will now only spend like a bottom 5 team whether in contention or not? Honestly, what did I miss?
To me, I’m assuming this rebuild is much like the 2016-2019 rebuild (slash payroll, clear roster space), but this time they will approach the farm system differently by restocking with trades from high value veterans.
Perhaps their FA approach will also be different in that they don’t overpay Moose-like players to field a new position into their mid 30’s.
I’m expecting they will extend those willing to sign Cueto-like deals.
I’m expecting they will maybe sign a Votto-level player again if that time comes.
I’m expecting they will test the waters on some Braves style deals for very young players.
But I’m not expecting they will keep their payroll under 100 million into 2025. I’d expect it to reach 130 again soon if they actually find this core to be worthy of investment.
In hindsight, the Williams era was marred only by the year where they traded Gray (but got Bauer) and pushed too hard for Moose and the forgettable guy from Japan.
The Krall era will be marred if they cannot stay out of the troughs like they plan. I think the brain trust (not the owners) is as much, or more, to “blame” for the current state of things. But, if they do things right and according to their vision, this should be the last rebuild for 10 years or more. But it’s been frustrating that they cannot compete in a very bland NL Central, even into this year.
This Krall path is very fraught, especially as you look at the Padres and White Sox efforts at winning with prospects. It doesn’t always work. In fact, the Padres literally threw the ketchup bottle at the wall and said “we’re trading them all!!!” To succeed, the Reds have to be one of the 2 or 3 teams that are astute and accurate and correct all the time.
Does that mean they will also be artificially cheap going forward? Not that I’ve seen.
I agree. Good post Tom
Well thought out Tom. I think the biggest difference from 2020 is the unknown on the RSN tv money (what is that, 40 million?) and roughly 400,000 less fan the previous season comparing 2019 going into 2020 and at least 2022 going into 2023.
Estimates – and they are just that – are somewhere around the $60M per year range from the RSN.
Thanks all, I don’t know how their going to pull it off but I hope they do. This element of trading prospects is one we will have a hard time with as fans of the minors. I’m torn on the approach.
But it seems to me we are already seeing the advantage teams have that get the best player in the deal. Who might the Reds have acquired to push past Pit when Stephenson was at his height in value in 2013?
Meanwhile, you could keep nearly everyone, invest in their success, take all the time necessary, and count on filling roster spots this way. Staying patient is the difficult part. But right now, the Reds AA and AAA teams could or should be loaded all year and in 2024 with promising players with several option years left.
And to add to some of this discussion, I wrote about it at Redleg Nation this morning (before I even saw your post, Tom – but it is partially based around the Fangraphs article):
Good stuff Doug! The tv contract looms large. It is possible the mlb tv revenue gets pooled and cut up evenly, thereby approximating the current revenue.
Nevertheless, under Krall I think the plan will always be to be most efficient in all aspects of the operation. They could feasibly stem the tide with any success.
I wonder how much they will continue to value the goodwill/ revenue side of the game? I think turning the dial up past their comfort zone for a winner is the right thing when the time comes. They should be preparing for that now.
That revenue is already pooled and divided up evenly. I’d venture to say that there’s almost no way in the next 5 years any team that loses their RSN is going to come remotely close to getting that kind of money replaced.
National TV revenue is shared evenly–all goes into a big pool and is split 30 ways.
Regional TV revenue is shared as part of the revenue-sharing formula prescribed in the CBA. Teams contribute about half of specific local revenues (including RSN revenue) to a pool that is distributed to lower revenue teams. Large market teams keep half or more of their local revenues. In other words, large market teams keep half of a bigger pie and derive a significant advantage that they leverage to their advantage on the free agent market. Local revenue sharing helps but does not come anywhere close to leveling the playing field.
So fans will need to subscribe to MLB.tv or not get to watch the Reds, correct? If so, wouldn’t that increase the pie that gets doled out? Perhaps a new agreement will limit the increased sharing to those teams that lost their RSN? It’s precarious. I for one will be additional revenue since I don’t have cable and cannot watch the Reds until MLB.tv opens access up to me.
It will increase the MLBtv pie. But since the Reds won’t be getting roughly $60,000,000 from Bally Sports….. the “media” portion of the pie from all sources is not going to increase.
I believe the first thing they need to do, which they haven’t done at least publicly, is decide on Votto status past 2023. If, as I believe it should be over after this season, even if as I hope he has a successful rebound. Regardless he won’t be there for the next championship run in three years. They could really sell some tickets by having a Votto weekend the last home weekend of the year if they decide now. Then take some of the $25 million ’24 savings and extend Stephenson (wouldn’t extend India unless they plan to move him to the outfield). Prepare Encarnacion-Strand and McGarry to take over first base and let them know the plan. In ’23 I’d try to get top prospects some MLB time.
I don’t think there’s any way they can, would, or should make that decision until they see what he’s doing on the field. It’s a $13M decision they’ve got to make. $7M to make him go away, or $20M to keep him around for one last go. If he has a solid year, you bring him back for that $13M and you have as many things as possible around his “final year” as you can. If you tried that now, before he’s even gotten on the field, it would be brutal and I’d imagine that it would not go over well at all with just about anyone.
With the MLB cutting all the different teams over the last few years and the possibility of cutting more in the future, does that mean there will be more kids going to college and thus making the college game more exciting?
Good point, and add in NIL incentives, and with good management and planning a transition from lower minors to Div. I competition could be mutually beneficial. The problem, of course, is with the good management and planning. MLB and NCAA haven’t shined in that capacity in recent years. Also, could be very shortsighted of MLB/ownership to concede the business at the intro levels of professional baseball.
I can’t imagine the MLBPA giving them the rights to cut more roster spots/teams. So I wouldn’t bet on this doing much of anything for college baseball.
Unfortunately, Drellich didn’t press for more clarity on the MiLB proposals (I get he may not have had the opportunity to do so).
During the last CBA, Ownership asked to limit the number of MiLB players any franchise could have. This notion should work for both sides. Smart unions don’t want to share finite benefits with those not adding value to the enterprise. For example, does it make sense to demand that management pay a player with a negligible chance of making the Majors and is not needed to support the development of other prospects?
As for the team aspect, some teams have multiple “complex” level teams. My guess is that is what is on the table. Frankly, I’m not sure MLB even has to negotiate on this issue. It’s never been part of prior negotiation (no precedent), and Management typically retains full control of how to run their business.
Look to the National Hockey League for a blueprint of where MLLB is likely headed with its farm system. NHL teams have one top level affiliate, i.e. AAA, team in the AHL. Some but not all have a full affiliate in a 2nd level minor league (such as ECHL).
The remainder of team controlled pre-NHL players are dispersed on teams in the so call Major Junior Leagues. As with the Arizona Fall League in baseball, teams in the MJLs are comprised of properties/ prospects from a number of NHL teams. The contraction of baseball’s draft and minor leagues 2 years ago has essentially created the foundation of a potential structure analogous to hockey’s JMLs.
The issue moving forward for MLB compared to hockey is that while hockey only requires 2 true specialty players (goalkeepers) on an NHL roster, half of an MLB roster is occupied by specialty players (pitchers). How would MLB develop enough pitchers if teams had only 2 (or 3) fully affiliated MiLB teams per franchise? My guess is MLB teams would place drafted/ signed fringe pitching prospects with teams in the independent but MLB supported leagues (i.e. former rookie leagues) on a case by case basis.
Think about the few Hall of Famers who would never had made it, if they do it.
But off the knows to spite there face.
the Bally situation is hanging large over the Reds.
So is the lack of fan support, even 2 years ago.
So are the 2000’s.
Seriously, impacts can last generations. All the Facebook group posts I see are complaining about something recent or strictly posts about Dave Concepcion or Eric Davis.