The Rundown: Idea to Expand and Realign MLB, Cubs Facing Contract Tender Decisions, MLB to Create Top Prospect Minor League
After recently proposing a very radical way to retool the Cubs roster, I thought, “What the heck, I’ll also help Rob Manfred expand baseball to 32 teams while realigning the leagues and divisions.” Because MLB will continue to see significant financial hardships heading into the 2021 season, expansion is one way to generate a large-scale infusion of cash into the bank accounts of the 30 franchise owners.
Manfred has repeatedly said that moving the current number of teams from 30 to 32 is something he’d like to see happen, and it’s not like precedent doesn’t exist for completely restructuring both leagues. Franchises have moved from city to city since the formation of the American and National Leagues and baseball operated as two leagues of eight teams as recently as 50 years ago. In 1969, MLB expanded to 24 teams and realigned into divisions, then expanded to 30 teams in 1998.
The Houston Colt .45's, part of MLB's expansion in 1962, along with the Mets, played at unshaded, unforgiving Colt Stadium. But seriously, forget the ballpark! Look at the outfits on the people who worked there! Photos: Owen Johnson, Houston Chronicle pic.twitter.com/8ovKRZ4uQa
— Lost Ballparks (@lost_ballparks) July 14, 2020
The league hasn’t always gotten it right and there have been some caveats. For instance, how did the NL determine that the Reds and Braves were in the West Division, while the Cardinals and Cubs played in the East as part of the ’69 realignment? My guess is rivalries, but those change over the years, too. The Mets were once one of Chicago’s biggest rivals and as much as Cubs fans hate the Cardinals, the rivalry between St. Louis and the Brewers seems almost as heated.
My plan would break the league into four separate eight-team divisions while expanding the playoffs to 16 teams. The two new franchises, based on the $130 million fees that the Rays and Diamondbacks paid in 1998 and adjusted for baseball’s inflation to a $10 billion-plus industry, would be charged $400 million each and that sum would be divided equally among the existing 30 franchises.
I’d start by relocating three teams, with the Rays moving to Brooklyn, the A’s to Las Vegas, and the Marlins to Oklahoma City. Then I’d add franchises in Montreal and Vancouver. Further, I’d reduce the divisions from six to four, realign geographically. If I really wanted to get nutty I could keep all the Eastern teams in one league and those in the West in another to save owners significant travel expenses. Then one day we might see a Cubs-Cardinals World Series, after the Cubs eliminate the White Sox in the league championship series, of course.
- East A: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Rays (Brooklyn)
- East B: Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, Montreal (expansion)
- West A: Rangers, Royals, Cardinals, Brewers, Astros, Twins, Rockies, Marlins (Oklahoma City)
- West B: Dodgers, Padres, Giants,, Diamondbacks, Angels, Mariners, A’s (Las Vegas), Vancouver (expansion)
The top four teams in each division would make the two-round division series, followed by a league championship and then the World Series. I’d eliminate interleague play and would have teams play their divisional opponents 12 times per season and their league rivals nine times per season, reducing the regular season to 156 games.
As an added bonus, expansion drafts make for great offseason conversation and debate. Teams would likely be able to protect 15 players initially while adding three players after the first and second rounds. Some minor league players could be eligible if they are on a team’s 40-man roster and free agents would not be able to be protected. We could have a whole lot of fun predicting who Hoyer might expose.
How would you expand and realign baseball, especially considering cities like Nashville, Portland, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Orlando, and San Antonio would also like to be considered as viable MLB markets?
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs reportedly plan to tender a contract to Kris Bryant before Wednesday’s 7pm deadline and a trade before then is highly unlikely.
- The Cubs will have plenty of time to explore Bryant’s trade value once he is tendered his 2021 contract.
- The Cubs are likely going to non-tender outfielder Albert Almora Jr. and though it’s not explicitly stated, it appears that Kyle Schwarber could be extended a contract before tomorrow if you read between the lines.
- What to do with Schwarber will be Hoyer’s first big decision as the head of the franchise.
- Baseball insider Jon Heyman indicated that Bryant is indeed a trade target for the Nationals, following up previous reports from fellow insider Jon Morosi and Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post stating the Nationals could explore such a move.
- That said, Washington has a long list of “untouchable players and prospects” that includes outfielder Victor Robles and promising minor league starters Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli, who can also play first base or DH.
- The Cubs could use a veteran second baseman, and Indians free agent César Hernández could be a candidate worthy of Hoyer’s consideration.
- The team announced 15 promotions within the organization’s Baseball Operations department, including Jeff Greenberg to Assistant General Manager, and Craig Breslow to Assistant General Manager/Vice President, Pitching.
- Longtime baseball coach Kirby Smith of Barrington High School believes he can help shortstop Javier Báez at the plate.
- In 1929 Rogers Hornsby had the greatest season ever by a Cubs player, followed closely by the 2001 campaign of Sammy Sosa.
Odds & Sods
Bryant for Starlin Castro. Weigh in, please and thank you.
Realistically, what would a @Cubs @Nationals trade look like?
"If you did Bryant for Starlin Castro, does that line up?… It's not the same in terms of value, but is that the best you can do? It feels like it."@Mike_Ferrin | @Jim_Duquette pic.twitter.com/PGQzU3ASN5
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 30, 2020
Major League Baseball is creating a wood-bat minor league for top prospects leading to the summer draft. Teams will play a 68-game regular season that includes an All-Star break that would coincide with the amateur draft in early July.
MLB also announced that it will repurpose the Pioneer League. Founded in 1939, it officially lost its longstanding professional development licenses with the league’s parent clubs and will now shift to independent status.
The Indians sold sidearm reliever Adam Cimber to the Marlins on Monday for $100,000, after which Miami designated right-hander José Ureña, their Opening Day starter in 2018 and ’19, for assignment.
The Yankees are said to be actively evaluating potential replacements for Gary Sánchez, including White Sox free agent James McCann, which could be a signal that the Bronx Bombers intend to non-tender Sánchez.
It’s possible the Rockies could non-tender former first round pick Jon Gray before tomorrow’s deadline.
The Reds intend to vigorously pursue a trade for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.
The Royals have signed free agent outfielder Michael A. Taylor to a minor league contract in a move that could be a precursor to non-tendering Jorge Soler.
The Brewers may be considering some cost-cutting moves that will change the face of their vaunted bullpen. The team has been rumored to be shopping Josh Hader all winter, and former closer Corey Knebel could be a non-tender candidate.
It looks like the Mets are not just the most interesting team in New York, but all of baseball.
The quality isn’t the best but I love the promotional strategy after the 1969 expansion and realignment.
Classic intro for the "NBC Game of the Week" (1969) #MLB #Baseball #History pic.twitter.com/xNG3HIAehL
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) June 22, 2020
They Said It
- “We have a lot of great players on this roster. We have some guys that had great years last year and we have some guys that had down years, but I certainly wouldn’t speculate about the future of any one guy at this point.” – Jed Hoyer
Tuesday Walk Up Song
North, South, East and West by the Church – Actually, a no brainer given today’s topic.