There were fairly concrete rumors of contraction among Major League Baseball’s minor league structure long before the coronavirus pandemic shut the baseball world, and the world itself, completely down. Citing efforts to streamline development, a cull of MiLB franchises was being written off due to efficiency, among other things, putting the future of many minor league players firmly in the air.
As we continue to witness MLB owners cry poor in their negotiations with the MLBPA on how to share revenue in a modified, fan-less 2020 season, it’s hardly unexpected to see them begin to cut costs in as many ways possible. We watched as Oakland announced earlier this week that they were going to cease paying their minor leaguers despite legalese keeping them from signing anywhere else, and we’ve already seen some teams begin to release waves of minor league players, too - there isn’t expected to be a minor league season, anyway.
It appears the Cincinnati Reds are in that boat, too. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman revealed earlier Thursday that the Reds are among the next group of clubs set to release minor leaguers, a frustrating yet inevitable development.
Mets, Reds and other teams are releasing minor leaguers today. “Literally a war zone out there,” one agent called it. @ByRobertMurray 1st mentioned mets releases— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 28, 2020
The truth will be told in the coming days, of course, but it should be noted here that this won’t impact any of the team’s top prospects. Odds are that the players being officially released are a cadre of career minor leaguers, some veterans who were in spring camp competing for final roster spots, and young prospects who had little to no odds of ever advancing to the bigs at any juncture. Really, that’s likely what the original, pre-COVID plan to cull minor league systems was going to aim to accomplish anyway.
Still, it’s a frustrating realization that baseball, even when it does return, won’t ever be the same again. The pandemic has forced an alteration in revenue that was already in the cross-hairs to begin with, and it’s highly unlikely there will be a reversal once the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, forever impacting the way we’ve consumed minor league ball in the process. (And that doesn’t even get to June’s MLB Draft, which will only be 5 rounds instead of the usual 40, so there isn’t even a ‘replenish the system with new players’ round of transactions down the road.)
We’ll do our best to relay which players are impacted by this, and I’m sure there will inevitably be many names you’ve come to be quite familiar with over the years.