Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, one of the baseball industry's major storylines concerned the ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball on a new Professional Baseball Agreement. In the early stages of those talks, the biggest proposed change was a reimagining of the minors, with fewer levels and affiliates. MLB's latest proposal contains an even more radical, if far less likely idea.
According to J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, MLB has pitched MILB on a single-elimination tournament concept called the Baseball Cup. All 30 MLB teams, as well as their 120 minor-league affiliates, would participate. MLB's inspiration, per Cooper, is European soccer:
The idea is modeled largely after European soccer competitions, in which lower-level clubs can compete with top-level clubs in yearly tournaments. For instance, England's FA Cup allows soccer teams from 10 levels of English soccer to compete for a title. The FA Cup runs concurrently with the Premier League season.
As Cooper notes, there are significant logistical concerns that would need to be addressed before the Baseball Cup became a reality, including scheduling and the Players Union agreeing to the idea. It's also unclear if teams would be willing to risk injury to their big-league players by asking them to face lower-level minor-league talent, or if the league would risk having an affiliate team win the Baseball Cup, thereby stirring more talk about minor-league pay.
MLB isn't the first of the major American professional sports leagues to weigh implementing an in-season tournament. The National Basketball Association has reportedly considered hatching a tournament that would see the winner receive an additional pick in the following draft. The incentive for both leagues is likely the same: to milk additional broadcast and gate revenue from a new, if borrowed concept.