In a typical MLB season, many former big leaguers are kicking around in the upper minors and independent leagues, ready to grab an opportunity when one arises. In a 2020 campaign that won’t feature any minor-league play, that won’t quite be the case. While many players will be participants in MLB 60-man player pools, not all potentially worthwhile candidates landed a spot.
Accordingly, there has been chatter about a small, unaffiliated, two-team “league” in which former big leaguers and upper-level minor-leaguers would play. The players would stay fresh and gain a showcases opportunity.
It turns out that the idea wasn’t driven by Major League Baseball, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic explains in an interesting report. The Nashville Sounds, presently the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers, arrived upon the concept as a way to generate some revenue. It’s a whole different model from a typical affiliated minor-league club, more akin to an independent league effort.
The plan is for two teams of 22-man rosters to compete during the MLB season. In conjunction with the organization More Than Baseball, the Sounds are working on non-traditional means of bringing in revenue, including crowd-sourced payments and various media concepts. It seems there’s some possibility of R.A. Dickey and/or Ben Zobrist — long-time MLB regulars that live nearby — appearing in some form or fashion.
It’s both an appealing and complicated undertaking for a variety of reasons. It certainly could function as a service to out-of-work players. But there are risks, too. Traditional injury concerns are present along with pandemic-related health issues, all without the deep pockets of Major League Baseball. Ensuring fair player compensation and protection will be tricky. Dealing with mid-“season” roster changes could introduce new challenges.
You’ll want to read the entire article to understand the full scope of the effort. It certainly sounds as if those involved are pursuing this with good intentions and strong player engagement. But translating those positive vibes into a worthwhile campaign will certainly be tricky.