An idea floated awhile back has gained traction in part to the shutdown of many parts of the country. It will have repercussions for KC Royals’ affiliates.
When the idea was first presented to cut the number of minor league teams from 160 to 120 in 2019 it was met with stern opposition. It is reported now, however, that MiLB is open to the idea and working with Major League Baseball on how to implement it. This would mean big changes for the KC Royals and all MLB teams.
Now MiLB is expected to signal its assent to a system going forward where each MLB team will have four full-season affiliates, plus one Rookie-level team at its spring training complex. Such a move fulfills the largest remaining demand MLB has requested in these negotiations. MLB teams have looked to reduce the number of affiliates each team has. MLB had already reached agreement last month with the Major League Baseball Players Association to cut the number of rounds in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, which will almost assuredly cut the number of players MLB teams sign each year. – JJ Cooper, baseballamerica.com
Each franchise would be limited to four full-season teams and Rookie ball would be played out in each team’s spring training complexes. For the Royals, this would seem to spell the end of the Lexington Legends, Burlington Royals, and Idaho Falls Chukars.
Lexington and Idaho Falls were two of the four affiliate champions from last season which makes the possibility of losing them tougher. Mostly for those communities, the loss of jobs, tax revenue, and summer entertainment is a hard pill to swallow with so many other economic issues currently affecting the nation.
Part of the proposal would be to keep the areas that lose minor league ball to still have ties to an MLB club. How that would work out makes me skeptical. Being from a town that lost the Royals Double-A affiliate several years ago (the Wichita Wranglers), I know firsthand that independent ball or other options do not present an option as good as being part of a franchise’s pipeline.
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We will keep an eye on this story, but it appears that the reduction of teams is coming. It will help control costs for many teams and the league but it will come at a price for many others.