MLB moving ahead with plans to take over governance of minor leagues

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball is moving ahead with planning to eliminate the separate governing body of Minor League  Baseball as part of a project to shrink affiliations from 160 to 120.

MLB said Wednesday it had retained Peter B. Freund and Trinity Sports Consultants to work on the transition.

The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues expired Sept. 30 without a successor deal following a year of acrimonious negotiations. The National Association was founded in 1901 and Pat O’Conner, the National Association president for the past 13 years, last month announced his retirement effective Dec. 31. The National Association office has been in St. Petersburg, Florida, and MLB intends to move minor league governance to the commissioner’s office in New York.

Freund is principal owner of the Memphis Redbirds, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A farm team in the Pacific Coast League, and of the Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Crosscutters, a Philadelphia Phillies’ Class A team in the short-season New York-Penn League that has hosted big league games in recent summers. He is co-owner of the Charleston (South Carolina) RiverDogs, a New York Yankees’ Class A team in the South Atlantic League, and is a New York Yankees limited partner.

He also helps run two soccer clubs: He is principal owner of Memphis in the second-tier United Soccer League and executive chairman of Dagenham & Redbridge in England’s fifth-tier National League.

MLB said in a statement he will “help develop the framework for a more cohesive and efficient model for the development of players.”

While the minors did not play this year and players with minor league contracts received $400 weekly stipends, MLB has announced salary increases of 38-72% for 2021 .

MLB has said it intends to retain baseball in the minor league cities losing affiliations. It has announced the Appalachian League will convert next year to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores.

Identities of all teams losing affiliations have not been announced, and MLB anticipates it will take several months to work out details on the transition to a system of licenses for minor league affiliates.

The minors drew 41.5 million fans in 2019 for 176 teams in 15 leagues, averaging 4,044 fans per game.