A proposal by Major League Baseball to restructure the lower level of the minor leagues could be the end of a handful of independently operated teams in the region, including the Vermont Lake Monsters.
The Lake Monsters, a Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, competes in the New York–Penn League, one of several lower-level minor leagues that MLB officials believe do not perform at a high-enough level.
The proposal would create a new “Dream League” under MLB control to provide undrafted players an opportunity to play. The proposal also includes a plan to cut the amateur draft from 40 to 20 rounds, reducing the player pool by about 600 and eliminate the need for roughly 20 teams.
That arrangement would place teams under MLB control, rather than the current system of independently owned and operated clubs. One minor league official told the New York Times that such a league would be a “death sentence” for more than 40 teams, mostly in so-called short-season, rookie ball and lower Class A leagues.
Along with the Lake Monsters, four other New York-Penn League teams — the Hudson Valley Renegades in Poughkeepsie and the Tri-City ValleyCats in Troy, as well as the Auburn Doubledays and Batavia Muckdogs — could be impacted.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a statement Monday saying that the teams could be “downgraded” by the restructuring.
“America’s favorite pastime should not become part of Upstate New York’s past,” Schumer said. “It’s no secret that New York’s minor league teams are institutions within their communities, which is why I implore MLB to reconsider any such plans and will be reaching out to them directly to advocate for our New York teams.”
According to Sports Illustrated, the changes would be incorporated into the Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and roughly 160 minor league affiliates. The current agreement is set to expire after the 2020 season.
In a statement, Major League Baseball told the Times:
“We are in discussions with the owners of the Minor League teams to reorganize elements of the system with the goal of improving the working conditions of minor league players, including upgrading the facilities to Major League standards, increasing player compensation, reducing travel time between affiliates for road games, improving transportation and hotel accommodations, increasing the number of off days, and providing better geographical affiliations between the M.L.B. Clubs and affiliates.”