Bad news if you’re a fan of the Buffalo Bisons — The Alternate Training Site will continue to exist for at least the first month of the 2021 season.
According to a report from ESPN, Major League Baseball has opted to push back the start of the Triple-A level season to early May. It was originally slated to begin on April 6, a few days after the start of the big-league season, but players will instead go to Alternate Training Sites like the ones from last summer for at least one month.
Here’s what MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations’ statement said…
“This is a prudent step to complete the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible, and we look forward to having fans back in ballparks across the country very soon.”
With COVID-19 vaccinations quickly becoming available in the United States, MLB is ultimately strategizing to have non-big-league players wait around and practice so that they can receive the vaccine before embarking on the minor-league season. Both Double- and Class-A level ball had always been scheduled to begin in May this season.
Minor-league players are obviously in a more susceptible position to contract the virus, given they fly around the country on commercial airlines rather than going from private flights to hotels as the big-league teams do.
From a Blue Jays’ perspective, this would make life quite a bit easier for having players with options bounce up and down from the big-league club when necessary. The Blue Jays will be playing at the stadium in Dunedin while everybody else, including Quad-A call-up types who otherwise would have gone to Buffalo, just a few minutes away at their new complex.
We’ve talked plenty over the past year about how MLB is gutting minor-league ball for the sole reason of cutting what teams deem to be unnecessary costs of operation. I wouldn’t say holding players back in order to be vaccinated efficiently and having players more readily available for a call-up would be completely in-line with that same goal, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Alternate Training Site just sort of lives on in place of minor-league ball.
There’s no doubt that teams prefer this style of development, especially for young, newly-drafted talent, given you can control what skills players work on at your fancy, high-tech facility in Dunedin more so than you can playing competitive games against other minor-league teams. The writing does really seem to be on the walls here when it comes to how MLB views minor-league ball’s relationship and importance to development.