While it seems more and more likely that we’ll see some sort of major league baseball this year (even if Dr. Fauci believes that the country isn’t ready yet for the resumption of games, even though he wants to see MLB return), we’re getting closer and closer to the cancellation of minor league baseball for 2020.
BREAKING: Multiple agents receiving messaging today that there will NOT be a minor league season, rather, an MLB expanded roster and a developmental league playing out of ST facilities.
— Joe (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 29, 2020
Now, Minor League Baseball came out and denied the report, saying “No decision has been made as to when it will be safe to begin the 2020 season.” However, it really feels like just a matter of time that it is going to happen. The odds of any sort of minor league season are really, really long.
You can have MLB without fans, but there’s no way that minor league baseball can do that. Besides the fact that financially it doesn’t work, with the expanded rosters that the big leagues are going to need for this crazy season, most of the top talent won’t be playing in the minors either. If it’s a quarantine situation, they’ll need to be kept with the major leaguers in case there is an injury. Even if they aren’t required to stay with the major leaguers for that reason, there will be more than 26 players on the active roster this year. So losing 4-10 (10 might be a bit much) of the best minor leaguers per team really dampers the MiLB product.
Then there’s the travel aspect of it. The report did say that there might be games at the spring training complexes, but that doesn’t help Peoria or Little Rock or Springfield. They need games in their stadiums and if the games are in their stadiums, that means another team has to fly or bus in, running the risk of spreading the virus throughout the highways of the country. While things are getting better, it doesn’t seem real likely that open travel is going to be a smart thing for a while. I know that the latest MLB rumor has them flying from town to town, but I’m not liking the chances of that really happening.
Even beyond all of those, putting together a season would be very difficult. If you are looking at a late June/early July start to MLB, you’d have to push the MiLB start out a week or two after that. Which is doable, but like Allen and I have talked about on Meet Me at Musial occasionally, then you get into (if this fall is normal, which it well may not be) school and football and other conflicts that cut into the attendance. Granted, after months of nothing even occasional fans would be something, but then again with the expenses to put on a game, it might not be.
All in all, I can’t really see a clear path for there being minor league baseball this season. But if there isn’t, that opens a lot of new questions.
- What happens to the top prospects that aren’t ready for big league play? Jeff Jones pointed out on Twitter Wednesday that while Dylan Carlson will be likely on any expanded roster, Nolan Gorman probably wouldn’t be in a normal scenario. However, does it cramp his development more to just work out and play scrimmages, if that, for a year or get some exposure against major league talent?
- What happens to service time with the minor leaguers? I’m not really talking necessarily about those that might make the 40-man, but more about those that are closing in on being Rule 5 eligible. Does this year still count toward that? Options do, I’m sure, so I would guess that would as well. How do you make decisions on who to keep and who to let be exposed if you are John Mozeliak staring at an empty line where data should be?
- How many players call it quits? Again, you wouldn’t expect anyone in the top 100 prospects in baseball to say they are done, but there are some guys riding the fringe that could. Guys that maybe could have had a great year this year and gotten on the radar, maybe had a cup of coffee that impressed. Look at Jose Martinez–10 years in the minors, gets a shot, and makes it pay off. If there had been a year without baseball, would we have ever been blessed with Cafecito Primos?
There are going to be a lot of baseball folks hurt by this whole issue (of course, that’s minor compared to those that are physically being affected by it) and a lost minor league season will have ramifications for a number of years down the line. It may take a while before the lack of repetitions and advancements are able to be overcome. However, there’s nothing you can do but deal with it. Unlike with the other issues involving the minors, this one doesn’t have a bad guy.