MLB Invites 120 Teams To Join Minor Leagues In 2021
On the second Wednesday in December, Major League Baseball took yet another step toward completing the most dramatic change in the minor leagues in at least half a century.
On Dec. 9, MLB invited 120 minor league teams to join its Professional Development Leagues. While there had been talks between negotiating teams from Minor League Baseball and MLB for many months, this pivotal moment, which will shape the structure of the minor leagues, was a unilateral decision. MiLB had no significant input into which teams were invited to be affiliates and which ones were not.
That appears to be by design. After months of talks, MLB made it clear it is setting up its own system. Based on feedback from minor league clubs, MLB has been willing to tweak aspects of the rules and guidelines it will use, but the structure has been set up by MLB and MLB alone.
As 2020 ended, there was no certainty that the 120 teams MLB invited would be the same 120 that take the field in 2021. To join MLB’s system, minor league teams will have to agree to sign a 10-year Professional Development License. They will also have to waive any right to sue MLB.
It’s possible some teams will balk, either by simply refusing to sign individually or by banding together as a group to attempt to get some aspects of the PDLs altered.
But nobody Baseball America talked to in the lead-up to or aftermath of the Dec. 9 invitation had any doubts that MLB will field a minor league system of its own design going forward. The questions revolve around whether it will be with the 120 teams that were invited or whether some teams will decline, in which case MLB would replace them with willing teams.
Below is the full list of 120 teams MLB invited to join the minors in 2021.
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Baseball America has been able to confirm the 120 invitations. They are:
|Boston Red Sox||Worcester||Portland||Greenville||Salem|
|Chicago White Sox||Charlotte||Birmingham||Winston-Salem||Kannapolis|
|Chicago Cubs||Iowa||Tennessee||South Bend||Myrtle Beach|
|Cleveland Indians||Columbus||Akron||Lake County||Lynchburg|
|Detroit Tigers||Toledo||Erie||West Michigan||Lakeland|
|Houston Astros||Sugar Land||Corpus Christi||Asheville||Fayetteville|
|Kansas City Royals||Omaha||Northwest Arkansas||Quad Cities||Columbia|
|Los Angeles Angels||Salt Lake||Rocket City||Tri-City (Wash.)||Inland Empire|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Oklahoma City||Tulsa||Great Lakes||Rancho Cucamonga|
|Minnesota Twins||St. Paul||Wichita||Cedar Rapids||Fort Myers|
|New York Yankees||Scranton/Wilkes-Barre||Somerset||Hudson Valley||Tampa|
|New York Mets||Syracuse||Binghamton||Brooklyn||St. Lucie|
|Oakland Athletics||Las Vegas||Midland||Lansing||Stockton|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Lehigh Valley||Reading||Jersey Shore||Clearwater|
|San Diego Padres||El Paso||San Antonio||Fort Wayne||Lake Elsinore|
|San Francisco Giants||Sacramento||Richmond||Eugene||San Jose|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Memphis||Springfield||Peoria||Palm Beach|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Durham||Montgomery||Bowling Green||Charleston, S.C.|
|Texas Rangers||Round Rock||Frisco||Hickory||Down East|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Buffalo||New Hampshire||Vancouver||Dunedin|
If every team accepts their invitations, which is not a given and will not be completed for some time, here is how the various leagues would be divided. The names of these leagues are also likely to be determined, but in the case of leagues that have long been known by their current names, we used them for now as placeholders. So the Texas League may or may not be known as the Texas League under the new system, but almost all the teams in the new league will be coming from what was the Texas League.
Triple-A would have one 20-team East/Midwest league and one 10-team West league if all teams accept their invitations and sign the Professional Development Licenses.
|Lehigh Valley||Sugar Land|
Double-A will have three leagues, one if the upper Midwest/East, one in the South and one in the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas-Kansas area.
|Eastern League||Southern League||Texas League|
|Hartford||Rocket City||San Antonio|
High Class A will see several leagues shuffle. The previously short-season Northwest League teams join high Class A and the Midwest League's teams will be moving up from low Class A. The 12-team Mid-Atlantic League is likely to have the most difficult travel. If all 12 teams sign their PDLs, it will have a seven-team division in the south and a five-team division in the north, which means there will always have to be intradivisional play.
|High Class A|
|Greensboro||Great Lakes||Tri-City (Wash.)|
|Jersey Shore||Quad Cities|
Low Class A will have three leagues. The California League moves down from high Class A to low Class A, as does the Florida State League. The league in the Southeast will be comprised of many teams from the South Atlantic League but also some teams that are switching over from the Carolina League.
|Low Class A|
|California||Florida State||South Atlantic|
|Lake Elsinore||Daytona||Charleston, S.C.|
|Rancho Cucamonga||Fort Myers||Delmarva|
|San Jose||Jupiter||Down East|
There are 12 full season affiliated teams that did not receive invites.
Double-A: Jackson Generals (Southern), Trenton Thunder (Eastern)
High Class A: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Florida State), Florida Fire Frogs (Florida State), Frederick Keys (Carolina), Lancaster (California)
Low Class A: Burlington Bees (Midwest), Clinton LumberKings (Midwest), Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic), Lexington Legends (South Atlantic), Kane County Cougars (Midwest), West Virginia Power (South Atlantic)