MLB made clear it did not want to maintain the century-old status quo that allowed individual minor leagues to define their own geographical footprints or dictate terms of affiliation agreements with major league organizations. MLB wanted minor leagues affiliations that were more permanent, that made greater geographical sense, that were more cost-efficient and that had higher facility standards.
And MLB wanted fewer minor league affiliates overall. Its plan called for 120 of them—four apiece for each of the 30 organizations—rather than the 160 ticket-selling minor league affiliates that operated in 2019. To achieve that goal, MLB intended to eliminate the entire Rookie-advanced and short-season classifications.
Against the backdrop of a Professional Baseball Agreement set to expire on Sept. 30, MLB and Minor League Baseball began negotiating a new working agreement.
Then the coronavirus hit. PBA negotiations went on the back burner in mid-March, when MLB halted spring training, and remained there for three months as MLB began an often contentious negotiation with the players’ union about a plan to return to play. The two sides reached an agreement in June and a 60-game major league season began on July 27.
That resumption of play allowed MLB to resume PBA negotiations with Minor League Baseball—and for information to trickle out about what a reorganized minor leagues could look like in 2021. Five of the more dramatic possibilities for a new-look minor leagues are presented here, though it’s important to note that none of these scenarios is guaranteed to come to pass.
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