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Rob Manfred is dead-set on changing the entire minor-league structure

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You will not be surprised that this change involves money.

Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Most of us are familiar with the word "tribute." At Gale Sayers' upcoming funeral, many classy tributes figure to be given. As good as he was on the field, he seemed a better person off the field. However, another meaning of the word “tribute” is to give a payment as an admission of dependence. Earlier this week Major League Baseball announced a continuation of an agreement with the Atlantic League into the future as a “partner league,” though what that means is ill-defined. They also added two other indy leagues, the American Association and Frontier Leagues, as “partner leagues.” As I read the press releases announcing these, a loud gonging bell sounded inside my head. I understood One Baseball, Rob Manfred's plan to redo baseball, as a series of tributes of minor league owners to Manfred.

I'm purely speculating. If you don't like speculation, thanks for getting this far. If these leagues are going to be used as a beachhead, I finally understand Rob Manfred's plan. My thought had been there would be 30 Triple-A teams, 30 Double-A, 30 Advanced-A, and 30 Low-A level squads. Beyond that, Indy Leagues. Mix and match which affiliates go to which level. However, MLB’s announcements painted an entirely different picture for me.

Perhaps you are familiar with the baseball documentary “Battered Bastards Of Baseball.” It’s about two independent teams who were allowed into the Northwest League in the mid-1970s. Instead of being about developing talent, these sides were about winning games. Which seems natural in the traditional US mindset, but minor league players are often best served developing their talents up the food chain. Work on your third and fourth offerings as a pitcher. Work through slumps as a hitter. Grow, so that when you're 22 to 24 and ready to go, you're developed. The White Sox completely flipped the trajectory on former No. 1 pick Carson Fulmer, and nobody's sure if he was simply bad, mishandled, or three servings of both. When player development is botched, it's tough to tell.

I'll take the Midwest League as an example. The league has 16 teams with eight in the east and eight in the west. It’s a bit unwieldy from a functional perspective, with occasional long drives from city to city. My thought is, rather soon, there will be about four or five A-Leagues. Let's go with one having a bunch of Illinois and Indiana squads. Toss away your Midwest League standings, though. Not all the teams in the league will be affiliated.

Maybe the Cubs retain South Bend, with the White Sox getting the squad in Geneva (Kane County). The Brewers stay in Appleton. Peoria and St. Louis remained linked. However, in the interest of having "more teams," maybe Normal gets a Midwest League squad. (Their venue seats 7,000.) Unaffiliated, but it's all good, as long as they pay the appropriate tributes unto Commissioner Manfred. Perhaps, even Rockford re-enters the Midwest League as an unaffiliated squad.

The players who go undrafted in the July draft? There will be plenty with the draft cut in half. Find a team willing to pay you the maximum $20,000 signing bonus, and the standard contract fee (which will be the limit if a team "clicks I agree".), and play at the A-Ball level.

The good thing? Players would have a chance to get acquired by an unaffiliated squad. The downside, I doubt an unaffiliated squad would be particularly concerned with "developing tertiary offerings" or "pitch counts."

I could be all wet, but the premise of having a couple dozen or so players at the extended spring training level to fill in for minor injuries? Rather unnecessary. The roster spots will likely be available, as long as MLB owners aren't footing the bill for their development.

I could be entirely wrong, but the idea that owners are repulsed by spending money on developing talent might soon be on full display. Want to get a minor-league team in your town? Get a stadium. Organize a bit of an organizational structure. Pay a tribute to Manfred and friends. Agree to his terms. Whatever those terms are.

The days of teams realizing that the other team is having one of those nights and dialing it back? If you're against an unaffiliated side, they might be a "too old for the level" bunch of guys trying to get signed by another organization. Hit enough, or toss two-hit ball into the eighth? Get your contract purchased, which would thereby cause someone else to get released. It wasn't my least favorite realization of this week, but it wasn't a particularly good one either.