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MiLB Proposal Raises Fees For Admittance, Preserves Governance

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The proposal Minor League Baseball sent to Major League Baseball this week differs in a few significant ways from what the two sides had been discussing.

According to details of the proposal, Baseball America has learned, MiLB would  retain independent governance through a slimmed-down MiLB office, something that may prove to be a non-starter for MLB.

MiLB’s negotiating team also proposed that independent league teams and future expansion teams a pay $35 million fee to join affiliated ball. That figure is significantly more than the $20 million maximum fee for teams joining Triple-A in MLB’s initial proposal.

Such a price tag would prevent almost any team from moving from the independent leagues into affiliated baseball. That runs counter to MLB’s desire to add independent league teams that meet the league's preferences for facilities, ownership and geographical fit.

The latest MiLB proposal would also retain the four full-season leagues MLB has requested, but would split the seasons of two of those leagues. The Florida State League would play the first half of the season in Florida and the second half of the season in the New York-Penn League.

Similarly, some West Coast teams would play the first half of their season at their Arizona spring training complexes and the second half of the season in the Northwest League.

That concept was already part discussions between MLB and MiLB. For MiLB teams, a split season would save a number of current short-season clubs slated for elimination from affiliated ball and accommodate Northwest League teams who wish to remain in a short-season role.

This proposal is the first by the new negotiating team MiLB has appointed for discussions with Major League Baseball. While there have been informal discussions, there have been no formal talks between the two sides since April 22. MLB negotiators have frequently noted the last few months that their efforts to reach a deal on a new Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) with MiLB have been delayed because of the need to resolve the issues that have arisen in completing a 2020 MLB season amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

With just 55 days remaining until expiration of the current PBA, a more than year-long negotiation is logically entering its final stages. Whether the two sides strike a deal or MLB decides to forge its own developmental system if no deal is be reached, the path of the minor leagues for years to come will be determined by these talks.

From MLB’s perspective, there are logistical hurdles to the latest proposal. It would require players, staff and coaches to spend the first half of a season in one city and then relocate to another for the final three months of the season.

In the proposal, Triple-A teams would play the longest season, Double-A would play a shorter season than Triple-A and Class A teams would have shorter seasons than Double-A.

The new proposal would also eliminate the ticket tax minor league teams currently pay to MLB, something MLB has shown a willingness to consider.

Teams eliminated from the current minor leagues would receive approximately a $100,000 per year subsidy if they continue play in another league. The exact amount of that subsidy could be subject to further adjustments, but multiple minor league teams have stated they would need financial support to successfully operate in non-affiliated leagues. That’s especially true for teams which end up in professional leagues where the clubs are responsible for player compensation, as opposed to collegiate wood-bat summer leagues.

MLB has consistently said throughout negotiations that it has no objection to compensation for teams eliminated from affiliated ball, but it sees those details as an MiLB concern.

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