The Nashville Sounds, Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, issued a statement announcing that they’ve discussed with Major League Baseball the possibility of hosting a league for unsigned big league players this year:
The Nashville Sounds Baseball Club has had discussions with Major League Baseball about the possibility of hosting games that would consist of free agents competing against each other at First Horizon Park this summer. We continue to have meaningful discussions with baseball officials and local health officials with hopes of baseball in Nashville in 2020.
Sounds general manager Adam Nuse tells Chris Harris of WSMV News 4 in Nashville that the hope is to host a 40-game season in compliance with Phase Four of the “Roadmap for Reopening Nashville.” Notably, unlike Major League Baseball, that would allow the Sounds to sell tickets and bring their stadium to 25 percent capacity. Phase Four of the city’s plan cannot commence until July 20 at the earliest. Under the scenario being discussed, the Sounds would hope to sign 40-plus players and field two teams that would play against each other. Players would report seven to ten days prior to the launch of Phase Four, hoping that the league would hit its target date for the launch of the next phase.
It’s an interesting concept — one that hearkens back to the unofficial Spring Training camp for free agents prior to the 2018 season. The list of unsigned players isn’t currently as widespread as it was in that frigid offseason when the MLBPA organized that setup, but as noted today when exploring the upcoming lift of the transaction freeze, there are still plenty of recognizable names without teams. Others could yet surface when the freeze lifts, as several veterans on minor league deals could opt out with their current clubs or simply be cut loose. The Sounds might not even end up being the only minor league club to take such measures. Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic report that MLB is expecting other clubs to explore similar endeavors.
The plan bears some similarity to independent ball, although if the Sounds succeed in luring enough former big leaguers or out-of-work upper-minors players, the quality of competition could be superior to that on the indie circuit. And while the money for players wouldn’t be overly enticing — The Athletic’s Jayson Stark tweeted that they’d be paid $400 per week — the league could serve as an extended showcase to allow teamless players to eventually find their way back onto a big league roster. Injuries will still pop up throughout the MLB season, and struggling players will be cut loose and replaced by taxi-squad players. Those taxi-squad spots would need to be back-filled.
It’s unclear at this point where MLB stands on the concept, but the Sounds seem committed to the idea regardless. Nuse tell Harris that the team is hopeful of cooperating with Major League Baseball but is currently planning to stage the league with or without the league’s cooperation.