St. Paul Saints as a minor league affiliate? Report details proposal for dramatic restructuring

A report from Baseball America on Friday suggested that as part of a major overhaul of the minor league agreement, an independent team from St. Paul could become part of the organized structure of MLB’s biggest talent pipeline.

The proposal from MLB to alter the Pro Baseball Agreement — which would reduce the minor leagues from 160 teams to 120 by 2021 — would be “the most dramatic restructuring of the minor leagues in more than half a century,” Baseball America wrote.

Nothing has been finalized but the dramatic nature of the proposed restructuring suggests that big change could be afoot in the next 2 years.

One reason for the changes suggested by MLB? The desire for a higher standard of quality for facilities and travel for minor leaguers, the report says. An excerpt from the BA report by J.J. Cooper:

“In MLB’s viewpoint, roughly a quarter of all current MiLB clubs far fall below the level of facilities they view as needed for their minor league players. MLB has essentially put the onus on MiLB to find a way to guarantee those stadiums will all reach what MLB deems as acceptable standards in the near future. If MiLB cannot, then MLB has a proposal to simply reduce the number of affiliated minor league teams going forward to the 75 percent of MiLB clubs that MLB deems capable of meeting their facility needs.”

And the most intriguing nugget from the report, for those of us who have ever wondered if the Twins could share an affiliation with the St. Paul Saints, and work with affilliated minor leaguers over at CHS Field in Lowertown:

“Not all current full-season teams would survive in this proposal. Some short-season clubs would be asked to move up to take the place of excised full-season affiliates. The proposal even suggests a pair of independent league clubs—in St. Paul, Minn., and Sugar Land, Texas—would be brought into affiliated ball.”

The Saints had not been aware of their inclusion in the substantial reorganization proposal until Friday. “We’re pretty happy with the 27-year history of what we’ve done in this area with independent baseball,” said Sean Aronson, the team’s Director of Media Relationships and Broadcasting. The team won the American Association championship this year, and has been named the league’s ‘Organization of the Year’ 5 years running. “We’re flattered, humbled that St. Paul was mentioned.”

The report ultimately concludes that it’s not clear if this initial proposal is merely an enormous request to get the conversation started, or if it sets the stage for concessions down the road as a contentious set of issues get resolved.

You can read the full BA report here.