The independent Atlantic League and MLB reached an agreement this offseason that established rules governing the transfer of player contracts to MLB organizations, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports. Cooper notes that, in practice, the agreement hasn’t had much of an effect on player transfers between the Atlantic League and affiliated ball — a number of players have gone from the former to the latter this season, like Trayvon Robinson (Diamondbacks) and P.J. Walters (Dodgers).
The agreement is significant for the Atlantic League, though, because it’s the first time it’s been officially acknowledged by Major League Baseball. “It signifies that we occupy a place within the professional baseball hierarchy. That’s meaningful to the league,” says Atlantic League’s Rick White.
“Since 1998 the Atlantic League has been a great resource for experienced players looking to extend their playing careers,” said MLB in a statement. “With our new agreement MLB is looking forward to continuing our relationship with the Atlantic League.”
Cooper notes that the Atlantic League has long sought to strengthen its ties to MLB. For example, it hired former Rangers, Indians and Tigers GM Joe Klein to be its executive director and former MLB Properties president White to be its president. MLB, meanwhile, follows the Atlantic League to see which types of rules changes it might be able to emulate — Cooper writes that MLB’s pace-of-game changes this season were based in large part on rules that had already been implemented in the Atlantic League.
The Atlantic League has, of course, featured any number of MLB luminaries, like Rickey Henderson, Roger Clemens, Tim Raines, Jose Canseco, Carlos Baerga and Edgardo Alfonzo. Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew briefly aligned themselves with the league after being drafted by MLB teams but before signing.
More commonly, the league serves as a springboard for marginal players to make it to the big leagues or make it back to the big leagues. Jerome Williams of the Phillies, who played with the Lancaster Barnstormers in 2011, is a prominent example. Some of the top players in the league this season include former MLB players like Lew Ford, Sean Burroughs, Mickey Storey and Sean Gallagher.