Pittsburgh Pirates: Manfred Threatens to Dismantle Minor League Baseball


The Pittsburgh Pirates still have a lot of work to take care of this offseason.  However, there might be an even bigger change coming to the team in the future.

As the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of Major League Baseball continue to progress through the offseason, there is bigger news from the weekend comes from the league.  During Major League Baseball’s negotiations with Minor League Baseball, it has been proposed that the league cut down the number of minor league affiliates for each league.  A total of 42 teams/cities would stand to lose their baseball teams.

The theory behind this is logical.  The league wants to increase annual salaries for Minor League players.  Most players in the minors make an average of $6-12 thousand a year.  Top picks get paid large bonuses and, if saved correctly, can live comfortably on them.  Meanwhile, other prospects have to not only grind their way up the farm system but also live day-to-day on a poverty-level income.

Obviously, raising the salaries of minor league players is very important.  Some of these prospects are 18 and 19 years of age living on their own for the first time.  Still, to cut minor league teams does not seem the best way to raise wages.  As fans, we look at the MLB owners as billionaires and do not understand why they cannot afford to pay players a few thousand dollars more.

This whole proposal is considered radical and cutting MiLB teams should not be the answer.  However, Manfred has made an even more radical proposal recently.  The Los Angeles Times was one of the many news affiliates to cover this story.  Here is the commissioner’s quote on the negotiations which was published in the L.A. Times:

"“Otherwise, MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.”"

To cut minor league baseball would obviously make a huge impact on the league.  Many teams have a long-running history with some of their affiliates.  For instance, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Altoona Curve. The Curve became the Bucs affiliate back in 1999 and has become a symbol of the Pittsburgh Pirates Minor Leagues.  People associate the Curve with the Pirates; it is natural, especially given the two-hour proximity to one another.

On top of effecting fan bases, it also would have a huge impact on the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  The Bucs are a small market team that heavily relies on a strong minor league system.  By eliminating, or even cutting down, the number of minor league affiliates, small-market teams would be deeply impacted.  This would give them less opportunity to bring in and develop more prospects, making it harder to find those next impact players.

This likely will not actually happen, and it’s likely to be a negotiation ploy by the Commissioner.  He knows how big of an impact that getting rid of, or at the very least overhauling, the minor league structure would have on the sport.  Beyond baseball, it would also eliminate thousands of jobs for people working at the stadiums and for the organizations.  Also, it would affect towns who rely on their professional team for financial benefits.

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Paying more livable wages for Minor League Baseball players is a must.  The league needs to change something to help create a better quality of life for these young prospects.  The answer is not to cut teams or eliminate the whole system altogether.  This would greatly impact teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates ability to compete in this lopsided league.  It would not only impact the big league franchise, but thousands of people and their communities, something that would not be good for anyone.