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MiLB, MLB reportedly near agreement to reduce minor league teams

A reported concession by MiLB could cut 42 teams, including possibly the Angels’ affiliate in Orem

Orange County Register Archive Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have been negotiating for months on a new working agreement after the current one expires at the end of 2020. A reported concession by MiLB could leave 42 minor league teams without affiliation, including the Angels’ rookie-league team in Orem.

From J.J. Cooper at Baseball America:

When MLB and MiLB negotiators convene on a teleconference on Wednesday, multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations say MiLB will indicate that it agrees to 120 affiliated teams in a new PBA.

Such a concession by MiLB could be a clear step toward a deal. MiLB has now agreed to find ways to come to agreement on almost all of MLB’s public demands. Now the open question is whether MLB will be willing to accept the concession as a foundation for a potential deal.

The plan, if approved, would leave teams with four minor league affiliates (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Low-A) plus a rookie league team at the club’s spring training facilities. It’s uncertain exactly which teams are on the block, but it doesn’t bode well for rookie and short-season leagues.

A New York Times report in November listed 42 minor league teams on a proposed cut list, which included the Low-A Burlington Bees in Iowa, and the rookie-level Orem Owlz in Utah in the Pioneer League.

In December, Orem owner Joe Katofsky supported a bipartisan task force in Congress aimed at stopping the proposed cuts. Orem has been an Angels affiliate since its inception in 2001.

“With this proposal, MLB is willing to break the hearts of dozens of communities across the country,” Katofsky said in a statement, per KSL. “We are going to resist this plan and are gratified that so many in Congress are willing to join with us.”

If unaffiliated, it’s unclear what that would mean for Orem or any of the other teams cut, though Cooper reports that MLB and MiLB would discuss a system that has some loose ties to major league clubs, though without players drafted and signed by that team.

There are many details for such a system that would need to be worked out, as far as what kind of financial and other support such teams would get from MLB and affiliated MiLB teams. But the general idea would be to ensure such cities continue to have reasonably high quality baseball in an economic system that would have staying power.

“Recent articles on the negotiations between MiLB and Major League Baseball (MLB) are largely inaccurate,” Minor League Baseball said in a statement on Tuesday. “There have been no agreements on contraction or any other issues.”

MLB and MiLB have been at odds for months on the issue of cutting teams, so much so that in January both parties accused the other of spreading misleading information. But it appears with this reported concession by MiLB, the path to a new working agreement for minor league baseball could follow. But the very structure of the minors as we know it could change dramatically.