Following the (hopefully temporary) closure of the Puerto Rican winter league, MLB is fighting back claims in a shocked shocked way that there will be a shortage of players for the other Latin American winter leagues this year.
While there might not be a shortage of players per-se for the winter leagues, there will likely be a shortage of quality, veteran all-stars for the leagues to use. Most MLB teams will hold back their Ivan Rodriquez types, who had been able to play for their home nation clubs in years past.
If the winter leagues in Latin America essentially become player development leagues, in the same way that their summer leagues and practically every single minor league in the U.S. and Canada, you’re going to see more winter leagues go the same way at the Puerto Rican league.
That already seems to be happening. In addition to a change in the draft status of the island, PR baseball is requesting even more involvement by MLB:
Bernier also proposes the establishment of four specialized baseball schools in different regions of the island. Ceiba, Caguas, Salinas and Manati are the proposed sites for academies. According to Bernier, Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is from Manati, has offered his support to the school in his hometown.
Baseball Griddle framed the failure of the league (founded in 1938) as a financial one. While that may technically be true, sinking attendances probably have a lot to do with the lack of a product on the field. If all of the really good PR players are being held back by their MLB clubs, what’s the point of the league and of being a fan?
What you’re likely to see with the PR winter league (and eventually every other Latin winter league) will be the same thing that happened to the Venezuelan Summer League recently and the Mexican Summer league back in the 1950s. MLB will, in some way, step in and take over the league as a player development system. Local owners may stay in place, but player contracts and the product on the field will be controlled by MLB clubs.
This will be good for MLB. Player development throughout Latin American will be streamlined. The problem of not having a non-USA/Canadian draft will be settled by simply controlling all other baseball outlets. Heck, they might even implement a hemisphere wide draft eventually.
This will not be good for baseball. The indigenous fanbase throughout Latin American will be destroyed. As we’ve seen in PR, and throughout the minor leagues (before the advent of silly promotion, family entertainment minor league baseball) people will not turn out for an inferior on field product that is not designed to win on the field, but rather to develop players for the next level.