This morning at Baseball America JJ Cooper wrote an article titled ‘The Wild West:’ MiLB Teams on Chopping Block Scramble to Find MLB Partner. It’s yet another thorough look at the problems that some minor league franchises are facing without games being played. But it also looks into some of the on-going negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.

As we wrote about this morning, minor league teams are doing what they can to try and bring any kind of revenue in that they can right now. Many are opening up their food services that would have been open for games – some offering pick up, some allowing in-stadium dining where allowed. Others are hosting movie and trivia nights, with proper social distancing of course. And our old friends down in Pensacola even set up a disc golf course on their field that saw several hundred attendees over the weekend. It’s not the same as game day revenue, for sure – but it’s enough to help teams bring in a little bit of money and keep some people employed who may not have been otherwise.

But within Cooper’s article he notes that it’s believed that the next meeting the two sides have will have the new “120 teams” list – the 120 teams that will still remain as affiliated teams in 2021. That list is currently unknown, but within, Cooper notes that teams are trying to do all that they can to get themselves on that list – which is mostly going to be made up by MLB teams who were asked about which affiliates they want, so having the backing of a team is huge in this scenario.

But while discussing the article with someone earlier today who works in minor league baseball, a good point was brought up: What if there are teams that are among the 120 who aren’t able to survive what’s to come and have a team in 2021? What if there’s a team NOT among the 120 who is still going to be financially viable to put a team on the field in 2021? Do they, assuming the geography works, get added to the list in place of someone who isn’t? When would that situation be realized?

The Reds farm system currently has six non-complex level teams. Among them, four were on the initial “contracted list” – the Billings Mustangs, Greeneville Reds, Daytona Tortugas, and Chattanooga Lookouts. The public has only seen the initial list, and it’s been reported to have been changing since that initial leak – but we have not seen any updates to it or heard about any teams that have been added to or subtracted from the list.

There aren’t any player development contracts in the organization that go beyond the 2020 season, so there was a chance that the Reds were going to have new affiliates all over the place because of that anyways. But with what could be happening in the minors moving forward, there could be far less “changing of affiliates” than we’re used to. It seems that only the Dayton Dragons remaining with the Reds is almost a guarantee. Because of their proximity to Cincinnati, they need the Reds approval to essentially exist. As such, there’s almost no way the Reds would allow them to become an affiliate of another franchise, which would theoretically lead to Reds fans becoming fans of another team because the Dragons fans who are also Reds fans wanted to continue to follow the Dragons players as big leaguers.

While the conversation I had earlier today was merely that, a conversation and an idea talked out loud, it does potentially leave open the possibility that a team like the Daytona Tortugas or Chattanooga Lookouts could make their way back to affiliated baseball even if they don’t make the initial cut on that “120” list that is supposedly coming soon.

Major League Baseball has vowed that even the teams that aren’t going to remain affiliated will continue to have baseball in some form. They’ve floated several different ideas out there from summer college leagues, to semi-pro “dream leagues” – but being affiliated is far more valuable to a franchise owner for a variety of reasons. When the 2020 year began, many minor league teams were in the fight together to try and keep all 160 franchises affiliated. Now, with a pandemic causing many of them to simply try and figure out how to not be shut down or sold for pennies on the dollar, it’s as Cooper’s article notes: It’s like the wild west, with each team doing what they can – even skirting the rules – to try and be among the survivors.

7 Responses

  1. James Phillips

    How are players going to be distributed assuming that it isn’t as simple as each org loses two teams?

  2. AirborneJayJay

    AAA only has 2 leagues. I think we’ll see a third league formed to help reduce far ranging travel and expenses for teams. To have 14 teams in the PCL and 16 in the International League is a bit much. I think we’ll see three 10 team leagues at AAA and every level. I believe AA and A+ are already that way. Geography will play a large role in that realignment. That might squeeze a couple of teams/cities out and present an opportunity for a couple of other teams/cities.

    • MK

      Used to be three with the American Association being the third.

  3. KyWilson1

    For regional fit the Reds should be Lexington, Dayton & Louisville. Whether Dayton could handle the bump up to AA facility wise I don’t know, but with their loyal fan base you’d like to see them get a chance. Lexington has a pretty nice park, seats around 7,000 but has a party deck and some lawn seating to accommodate more.

    • MK

      Just can not imagine why Dayton ownership would want to move up two levels. At least originally there was to be a significant fee charged to teams moving up a level (let alone two) and those fees were going to be paid as compensation to those moving down or losing a team. Even though they currently outdraw most AA teams I don’t think DayAir Field in Dayton has the minimum seating capacity for AA Stadiums (could be wrong on that) but more importantly there would be little opportunity to increase profits by moving upas they are already sold out.

      • amdg

        The Pensecola Blue Wahoos stadium only holds 5k, and Chattanooga holds a little over 6k.

        The Dragons stadium holds over 8k.
        So it shouldn’t be an attendance issue.

      • MK

        You can get that many in but those are not all seats. There are 6,800 (milb.com/dayton) seats the rest of the people are lawn seating or grass.