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The Pioneer League gets a bit of clarity

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The minor-league realignment continues.

Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pioneer League, an eight-team loop of formerly affiliated minor-league ballclubs, is taking shape in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s Baseball One environment. Of course, a few of the important specifics are still a bit on the vague side. This is very on-brand for Manfred, who has yet to announce whether the 2021 MLB season will have across-the-board DH the week teams have to tender contracts.

The eight-team league, in which the Cubs don’t have an affiliate, will be an independent league with MLB ties. The squads will likely be filled with players unsigned after the MLB Draft in July. Which might get people to say, "See? David Bote stories can still happen?" MLB’s press release on this states:

As a Partner League, the Pioneer League will collaborate with MLB to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the Western U.S. and Canada. MLB will provide initial funding for the league’s operating expenses, as well as install scouting technology in Pioneer League ballparks to provide MLB Clubs with first-class scouting information on Pioneer League players. The agreement will also include a procedure for player transfers to MLB Clubs. The Leagues also will explore joint marketing, ticketing and fan engagement opportunities.

Of course players can still go from undrafted to MLB-successful. However, two aces still remain in the hole. Nobody has been informed if players, once drafted, can play in any games that season. (This sounds unlikely.) A vacuum still exists on whether or not teams will have a hard limit on how many players can be in their organizations. (This seems likely.)

It could be that, if a player in the Pioneer League impresses, his signing will virtually require the release of another prospect, unfathomable a few years ago.

Monday also provided clarity for the recently-announced MLB Draft League, a six-team league of players trying to show off for the draft, or free agency, afterward. This would seem a gathering of players that aren't in heavy demand in the first two days of the draft. MLB also issued a press release on this league, which will have teams in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania:

Plans include a 68-game regular season with an annual All-Star Break centered around the MLB Draft. MLB Draft League participants will receive unprecedented visibility to MLB Club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes. PBR [Prep Baseball Report] will provide support for the league’s staffing, player and coach recruitment, on-field operations, and administrative functions. PBR will also use their media and technology platforms to promote the league and its players throughout the season.

Could this be useful to players who succeed in that league? Sure, it could be. The same questions loom. Will they be able to play if signed? Will the team be counting roster spots as their success is being assessed? Teams being able to patiently develop talent, long a tenet of wise organizations, seems to have gone away. It sucks for me, because I enjoyed learning about players on their deliberate trips through the Cubs pipeline.

Owners who want a bare-bones roster set-up, buoyed by a Commissioner unable to decide a way to make a decision for the good of the game, are forcing teams that want to employ players to not do so. Poor, unfortunate billionaires.