Which MiLB Teams Are On The List To Be Eliminated? It's Impossible To Say
As MLB and MiLB continue to work to try to hammer out a deal on a new Professional Baseball Agreement, we at Baseball America are constantly asked which MiLB teams are on "the list" of teams slated to be dropped from affiliated ball if MLB gets its way to cut to 120 affiliated teams.
The simple answer is, there's no easy answer to that question.
The “list” is the 42 teams that are potentially not going to be part of the affiliated minor leagues if the two sides come to an agreement on the 120-team affiliated plan that MLB has proposed.
For one, there is as of yet no deal on a new Professional Baseball Agreement. Until there is a finalized agreement, there is no finalized list.
For now, any of the proposed lists that has been published are a snapshot of a moment in time. From our reporting, who is on and off of “the list” has continued to change.
There was initially a list of 42 teams MLB proposed last year, and since then there have been verifiable instances of teams moving on or off the running list (to get to MLB's desired 120 affiliated teams, for every team that moves off the list, another has to move on). The reasons for moving on and off the list have differed -- some teams have gotten facility improvements approved, others have demonstrated enough political pull to be given a second look and others simply may have proved to fit better into MLB’s goals for realigning leagues.
That could continue going forward. So a team that seems safely off the list right now could end up on a future version and vice versa.
There are currently 160 teams in affiliated baseball above the complex level (which are the Dominican Summer, Gulf Coast and Arizona Leagues). Ten of those teams in the Appalachian League are a unique case, as they are MLB-owned clubs who then enter into operations agreements with operators in those cities. MLB has long had the right to shut down the Appalachian League with six months notice, independent of any PBA negotiations.
For the other 150 teams, the MiLB teams themselves are all franchises that operate within Minor League Baseball. Major League Baseball agrees to provide players and coaches through the PBA, but the teams themselves are owned and operated independently (although some teams are owned by MLB owners).
Until there is an agreement between MLB and MiLB for a new PBA, there is no final number for how many teams will operate in affiliated baseball in 2021. Baseball America, the Associated Press and others have reported that the parameters of a potential deal would likely revolve around 120 affiliated teams. But that has not been finalized.
And if it is, it does not guarantee that it will provide a final list. The Associated Press is reporting that within the parameters of a new deal is the potential for a provision where full-season teams slated to be cut out of the 120 could be granted provisional licenses to be retained if they show the prospect of a new stadium or significant facility improvements.