MLB Sets Deadline For New York-Penn League Clubs Interested In Summer Wood Bat League
According to multiple sources, Major League Baseball has asked New York-Penn League teams to provide an indication by Monday whether they are interested in joining the summer wood bat league that MLB recently proposed to league members.
The deadline is for teams to express interest rather than an ironclad final agreement. There are remaining questions that need to be resolved. Most notably, some New York-Penn League teams could be part of the 120 remaining affiliated clubs, which would mean they wouldn’t be part of the proposed NYPL summer wood bat league.
MLB is indicating it needs to have an idea of whether there is enough interest from NYPL teams to field the six or more teams needed to establish a functional league. If not, MLB will look elsewhere to set up a wood bat league designed for rising college seniors to play in the weeks before each year's draft. MLB could also try to find other markets in the same area as the interested clubs to build the league out to a sustainable number of teams.
While some of the New York-Penn League teams have shown interest, others have met the proposal with skepticism. Some teams are worried about fewer games on the schedule (60 to 68 instead of the 76 they have now), the costs of the league dues and concerns about long-term franchise valuations.
Some of the New York-Penn League teams may have other options. In the Yankees press release this weekend announcing their minor league affiliation changes, the Yankees suggested Staten Island, which lost its Yankees affiliation, could become a part of the Atlantic League, a long-time independent league that is now a partner league of MLB.
The Atlantic League is not the only professional option. Two other long-term independent leagues that are now partner leagues could also work into the mix. The Frontier League is another potential suitor, and it added the Canadian-American League’s teams located close to New York-Penn League markets in a 2019 merger.
The American Association, which does not currently stretch further east than Gary, Ind., could also become a factor if enough teams showed interest to set up a self-sustaining division.
If that happens, it would be a case of everything old becoming new again.
Much of the American Association split off from the now-defunct Northern League in 2005. Before the split, the Northern League was in a four-year merger with the Northeast League located in a geographically similar area to New York-Penn League markets. Eventually, Northeast League teams split off at the time of the Northern League-American Association split and became the Can-Am League. The remainder of those teams are the ones that merged with the Frontier League in 2019.
The Northern League and the Northeast League played an all-star game together and a postseason, but the two groups largely played two separate schedules to keep travel costs down.
If New York-Penn League clubs opt to go with the partner league route, it could be a battle to see what provides the best fit for teams. The Atlantic League offers a 140-game schedule, which means the most revenue-generating home dates, but also has the highest salary structure. The American Association and Frontier League offer 100 games each with lower salary costs than the Atlantic League. Figuring franchise valuation appreciation and other ancillary revenue streams will likely factor into the decisions as well.