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 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

Odds & Sods

Bryant for Starlin Castro. Weigh in, please and thank you.

Tuesday Stove

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.

Extra Innings

The quality isn’t the best but I love the promotional strategy after the 1969 expansion and realignment.

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.

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