Until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, one of the biggest stories of the offseason was Major League Baseball’s plan to contract 40 minor league teams. It was a plan that was met by Minor League Baseball’s staunch opposition and by mounting political pressure from presidential candidates, members of Congress, and state and local officials. It seemed like it’d be a battle that would rage for months.
Things, now, have obviously changed. From J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, reporting on negotiations over the Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs the relationship between Major League and Minor League Baseball:
When MLB and MiLB negotiators convene on a teleconference on Wednesday, multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations say MiLB will indicate that it agrees to 120 affiliated teams in a new PBA.
Minor League Baseball, basically, has no choice.
As Cooper reported last week, Minor League Baseball is in dire straits in light of the pandemic. Unlike Major League Baseball, which has massive television, radio, Internet, real estate, and side business revenue, Minor League Baseball relies almost exclusively on ticket sales. There are, obviously, no ticket sales happening now and they are unlikely to happen at all in 2020, even if MLB manages to get its season off the ground. Even 2021 could be in question depending on the course the pandemic takes. There has been widespread speculation that, no matter what happens with the PBA, multiple minor league franchises will simply fold.
In light of this, the battle seems to be over and Major League Baseball is getting what it wanted all along. The question now is whether a new PBA will offer anything in the way of support to what remains of the minor leagues or whether the minors will be even worse off once this deal is done than they would’ve been had Major League Baseball simply gotten its way back in December.
. . .
Update (4:10 PM ET, Bill Baer): Minor League Baseball has released a statement. Via The Athletic’s Evan Drellich:
Recent articles on the negotiations between MiLB and Major League Baseball (MLB) are largely inaccurate. There have been no agreements on contraction or any other issues. MiLB looks forward to continuing the good faith negotiations with MLB tomorrow as we work toward an agreement that best ensures the future of professional baseball throughout the United States and Canada.