MLB, MiLB To Meet To Continue Negotiations
On Aug. 27, Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball’s negotiating teams will have their first formal meetings (virtually) since April 22.
The sides will be trying to come to a new agreement on a relationship for 2021 and beyond. The current Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs the relationship between MLB and MiLB teams, expires on Sept. 30.
A lot has happened in the 127 days between meetings. MLB officials involved in the negotiations have spent much of the summer getting the MLB season off the ground, working through in-season coronavirus outbreaks and now trying to figure out the playoffs, which likely will include playoff bubbles similar to what the NBA and NHL have adopted.
On MiLB’s side, the faces appearing on the webcams will in some cases be different from the ones who met with MLB in April. MiLB President Pat O’Conner disbanded that negotiating committee in early August and replaced it with a group dubbed the transition committee.
The MiLB Board of Trustees then recommended a new negotiating team (one which included three members of the group O’Conner had disbanded) and sent it to O’Conner for approval.
O’Conner approved that group with one formal addition and the appointment of an MiLB-contracted attorney to serve as a legal advisor to the group.
When the sides meet there will be just 35 days until the current PBA expires, but nothing prevents the sides from working beyond that deadline to get to a deal. In fact, that’s exactly what happened in 1990, when that PBA expired and the sides finally reached a deal in December.
That year, the sides’ disagreements stemmed from significantly increased facility requirements. MLB’s only recourse if it could not come to a deal was to have its players play at spring training sites.
This year, MLB has made clear it wants to completely change the structure and governance of the minors. In doing so, it has done a lot of the legwork to potentially set up its own system. MLB has worked to understand the economics of minor league baseball. It has developed an understanding of the state of various ballparks. It has talked with all 30 MLB clubs about their preferences for their affiliates.
As such, MLB has the option of walking away from MiLB and setting up its own system if it does not see a path to a deal. If that happened, many MiLB owners expect that most MiLB teams would apply to become part of MLB’s new system.
For now that’s simply speculation. The current PBA is still in effect and negotiations between the two sides are once again occurring, ensuring that the next six weeks will be some of the most momentous in the long history of Minor League Baseball.