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Task force to fight proposed minor-league changes
MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Task force to fight proposed minor-league changes

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Baseball’s winter meetings that begin Monday in San Diego are not the only place where a proposal that would eliminate 42 existing minor-league baseball teams is a topic of conversation.

A bipartisan Save Minor League Task Force has been formed in Congress to advocate on behalf of the communities that could be harmed by a Major League Baseball proposal that would reshape minor-league baseball if implemented.

U.S. Representatives Lori Trahon (D-Massachusetts), David McKinley (R-West Virginia), Max Rose (D-New York) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) have formed a task force that held its first meeting this week, meeting with Pat O’Conner, the president of Minor League Baseball, and several team owners.

The group discussed strategies and announced intentions to monitor ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball and discuss potential legislative action if and when it is needed.

Its formation follows a letter authored by Trahan and McKinley and signed by 104 of their colleagues from the House of Representatives which was sent last month to Major League Baseball urging it to abandon plans to eliminate 42 minor-league teams.

While the Quad-Cities River Bandits are not on a preliminary list of teams facing the possibility of elimination, Midwest League clubs in Clinton, Burlington and Beloit are, and a fourth team, Bowling Green, would be shifted to a different league.

The current list of 42 teams is considered fluid as negotiations for a new Professional Baseball Agreement — the working contract between the Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball — begin in earnest.

The current contract between the governing bodies of the two organizations expires after the 2020 season, and no changes would occur until after that date.

River Bandits general manager Joe Kubly issued a statement Wednesday saying that Quad-Cities team is supporting the task force’s objectives, sentiments echoed in a statement issued by Clinton LumberKings general manager Ted Tornow.

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

Documents obtained by the Quad-City Times outline what potential changes could look like if implemented.

A proposal from the office of the commissioner dated Aug. 14 details how a 120-team alignment would operate covering the 2021-25 seasons.

Major League Baseball would assign affiliations to Minor League Baseball organizations that would remain in effect for the duration of the agreement, with no changes during the term of the agreement without the consent of both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.

It outlines that Major League Baseball will guarantee 120 player development contracts during the term of the agreement — 118 to existing affiliated clubs and two to expansion clubs — down from the existing 160.

The proposal also details how the major-league proposed Dream League would operate, beginning with offering "a license to participate" to the 42 existing teams being eliminated.

Additional documents illustrate how the Midwest League would be impacted, including what affiliation changes would take place if the proposal is adopted.

The document lists Beloit, Burlington and Clinton among contracted clubs, lists Bowling Green as a team which would have a league and affiliation change and lists Kane County as a team that would have an affiliation change under what it labels the "120 affiliate plan."

According to the document, which remains only a proposal, all other Midwest League teams would continue to exist and would retain their current parent clubs through 2025.

The plan would create a 12-team Midwest League and three additional six-team leagues. It lists the Kansas City Royals as the assigned affiliate of Kane County and moves Bowling Green to the Double-A Southern League, where it would become a Cincinnati Reds affiliate.

The Marlins, currently affiliated with Clinton, would shift their low-A affiliate to Asheville in a six-team South Atlantic League that would also include the Rays affiliate relocating from Bowling Green.

The Angels, Athletics and Diamondbacks, currently affiliated with Burlington, Beloit and Kane County, respectively, would move their low-A operations to the Northwest League, which under the plan would shift from being a short-season league to a full-season league.

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