The chances for minor league baseball to cut teams — possibly including three in West Virginia — are reportedly getting closer.
Baseball America reported Tuesday afternoon that the minor leagues will be willing to agree with Major League Baseball’s proposal to reduce the number of affiliated teams from 160 to 140. Baseball America cited several anonymous sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Under the proposal reported last year, 42 teams currently holding MLB affiliations would lose them. Independent teams in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Sugar Land, Texas, would gain affiliation.
That move is huge for minor league fans in West Virginia. Three teams on that original list — the West Virginia Power, Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays — are found in the Mountain State. If the proposal is passed and the original teams remain on the list, the only remaining minor league team left in West Virginia with MLB affiliation would be the West Virginia Black Bears.
With the proposal, each MLB team would have four full-season affiliates and one rookie league team. According to Baseball America, the minor leagues and MLB are working on a deal to ensure most of the 42 affected marks would still have MLB ties in a system with long-term viability.
The initial proposal from MLB would give those 42 cities the chance to join a “Dream League,” where undrafted players would get a chance to compete. Minor league management balked at the idea, worried that it wouldn’t be viable in the long term.
Now the two sides reportedly will work toward revising the concept to better benefit those 42 cities.
The issue has made its way through the halls of the United States Congress. The House of Representatives created a Save Minor League Baseball Task Force that is co-chaired by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.
The House passed a resolution in March asking the Government Accountability Office to study the “social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture.”
Much like in other aspects of life, the coronavirus pandemic has affected the professional baseball landscape. Both MLB and minor league opening days have been postponed indefinitely and the revenue loss is hurting teams at every level.
A negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday.