Following up: Surviving minor league teams considering options

When the White Sox announced their invitations to their present minor-league affiliates, extending offers to remain their minor-league affiliates into the future, I had to read their responses carefully before writing it up, lest I say something they didn’t.

Like, “Yes.”

The Charlotte Knights didn’t say it:

“We have received notice from the Chicago White Sox of their intent to issue a Professional Development License to the Knights,” said Dan Rajkowski, chief operating officer of the Charlotte Knights. “Once the PDL is received, our ownership and management team will review the terms and correspond with the White Sox. The Knights look forward to the future of professional baseball in Charlotte.”

Nor did the Birmingham Barons:

“We’re excited and honored to receive the White Sox invitation to continue our partnership,” said Jonathan Nelson, president and general manager of the Barons. “Over the years the Chicago White Sox have provided many great players and teams who have entertained our fans and positively impacted the Birmingham community.”

Nor did the Winston-Salem Dash:

“We value the long-standing relationship we have had with the Chicago White Sox and will be reviewing the licensing agreement they have provided,” said C.J. Johnson, president and general manager of the Dash. “Winston-Salem has hosted Minor League Baseball since 1905, and we look forward to having professional baseball at Truist Stadium for years to come.”

Nor did the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers:

“We appreciate the invitation from the White Sox to continue their affiliation with the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. We have had a terrific relationship with the White Sox since we purchased the team in 2018,” said Andy Sandler, chairman of Temerity Baseball and owner of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.

Major League Baseball’s takeover of Minor League Baseball puts this in uncharted territory. I wasn’t positive whether the lack of affirmatives were purposeful in keeping unknown options open, or whether they’re following a procedure that’s obscured from outsiders. Baseball America’s story said these assignments weren’t a given, although since the White Sox are the only team keeping both their previous affiliates and hierarchy, they would seem to have surer footing than most.

But a story by The Athletic’s Evan Drellich explains why even the minor-league clubs that didn’t change teams or levels might not be satisfied simply by surviving as one of the remaining 120. It starts with the ability to review the Player Development License, which they can’t do until they sign a non-disclosure agreement and an indemnification of MLB. In other words:

Minor league owners at this point are not formally agreeing to be MLB’s partner. That comes once the actual PDL is reviewed. So the decision those teams face now, then, seems simple: if they’re considering a lawsuit against MLB, they’d be signing away those rights in order to review the full PDL.

Beyond that, Drellich says the ownership ranks are unhappy with how they’ve been stripped of autonomy over their own situations. Things that used to be handled on the local level like insurance, negotiations with cities over facilities, ticketing, sponsorships and advertising can now be dictated by the league. The impact of these aspects will vary by club and market, but what looked like a strong-arming on the surface runs deeper than I realized.

It’s also unclear whether minor-league teams have a way to actually disrupt the plan. Drellich says some collective action is possible (the Double-A Texas League could strike out on its own, because many teams dabbled independently during the pandemic summer). At the same time, he also notes that Triple-A teams seem to have unique incentives to accept, whether it’s because they’d be protected from MLB expansion moving in on their turf, or because they saw how easily alternate training sites replaced their product.

The league has created a messy and unfortunate situation overall, even for clubs that would seem to be minimally disrupted. Teams have to decide whether to review the PDL by Dec. 18, and given the potential for league- or level-wide volatility, I probably won’t try guessing about decisions beyond the deadlines at hand.

(Photo by Amcannally)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Wow. Is this Manfred’s doing



Do you think he could have gotten this deal if he weren’t a Hall of Famer baseball person? Or rich? Or white? I’m only one of those things, and I don’t think I would have fared so well.


Pretty common. Not far above the legal limit, covid-clogged court system, first offense in AZ, potential reluctant witness on the weaving lanes, competent legal representation – this is predictable.


Perhaps so. The laws and courts should take a dimmer view of drunk driving, though.


Some AL Central news.