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Contraction...and there's no way it'll be us!

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The Cub Reporter points out that contraction could be on the way:

Per the current CBA (which expires on December 19th), MLB owners have the unilateral right to contract MLB by two clubs effective with the 2007 season. To do this, MLB owners have a three month window starting on April 1, 2006 to make the decision, and then the owners only have to notify the MLBPA by July 1st.

Amazing how this has slipped under the radar.  In the past, contraction has been a hot-button issue, especially in small markets like Milwaukee.  Of course, with Selig at the helm, there was probably never much of a threat of the Brewers being contracted, but you could never be sure.  Certainly this affects our friends in the Twin Cities.  More of the details:

Any franchise with "stadium issues" where the local pols aren't being "cooperative" is ripe for elimination. All the owners have to do is buy-out the owners of the contracted clubs for maybe $200m per club (costing the remaining 28 clubs about $15m each (about what the Cubs paid Sammy Sosa to play in Baltimore last year) if it's the Marlins and Twins, or only $7.5m per remaining club if it the Marlins and Nationals, because the Nats are already owned by MLB). The remaining MLB owners would then get a bigger slice of the revenue pie (1/28 instead of 1/30) long-term to make up the cost of the buy-out(s).

The reason MLB owners might be especially likely to want to do this now is because there are no other ready-made places to move the Marlins, Nationals, and/or Twins if those clubs can't get new stadiums in the next couple of years. Plus, MLB owners might not get this chance again in the next CBA.

Even with all the madness over building a stadium in DC, I'd be shocked if the Nats were chosen for contraction.  They made a splash with the public in their first season, and you know that if they were contracted, they'd remain the first target of every team who thought about relocating in the future.  DC politics will get dealt with eventually, and a stadium will be built somehow.

What interests me the most about all of this, though, is what happens if the likely targets--Florida and Minnesota--get axed.  

First, you'll have an odd number of teams in each league.  Somebody'll have to move.  There'll be an opening in the AL Central, and I can think of one NL team that used to play in the American League...you get the idea.  I wasn't following the Brewers when the team switched leagues the first time, but that's a pretty massive change for those of us interested in projecting the future for teams and players.  

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like it.  It won't do wonders for the pitching staff, as more runs are scored in the AL than the NL, but that's a wash, since we'll get a DH too.  And once Frank Thomas retires, the most obvious DH in baseball will be a Brewer.  Whatever you say about Prince Fielder's work ethic and attitude, the guy is destined to spend much of his career as a DH--why not start now?  That would allow Corey Hart to take over at first.  Unlike the vast majority of NL teams, we're ready to move.  

Competitively, I like it, too.  Yes, the reigning World Champions are in the AL Central, but I'm not convinced the Sox are a dynasty waiting to happen.  The Indians are a solid, well-run franchise, but without deep pockets, they'll never turn into the Yankees of Ohio.  Royals and Tigers?  Yeah.  Next?

In the NL Central, we're actually taking advantage of a blip of an opportunity.  The Cardinals will probably always be a major threat--I suspect they'll be a powerhouse in their division long after the White Sox return to mediocrity.  After all, Albert Pujols is signed until I hit my mid-life crisis.  Once Dusty Baker goes away and the front office rethinks their approach, the Cubs might throw their money around more wisely, and could easily be a threat each year.  In Houston, the size of the market suggests the Astros could support a $90m payroll as well.  Even the Reds, under new ownership, might parallel the Indians or (gasp!) the Brewers in a few years.  

In short, there are advantages to relocating ourselves.  I'm running longer than I intended to, but here's one more thought from the Cub Reporter:

How players on the 40-man roster of a contracted franchise (especially those with "no trade" rights and/or multi-year contracts) would be dispersed is unknown. Waivers? Special Draft? Auction? Free-Agency? Same goes for minor league players in the contracted organizations. (Might make for a pretty interesting Rule 5 Draft next December!).

I'm a little obsessed with talent drafting, whether it be Rule V, or a fantasy or Strat-O-Matic league, so this is what really makes me think.  The obvious answer is some sort of draft, like the expansion drafts of the past.  But in those cases, only two teams were involved, so draft order didn't matter much, and the talent available was minimal.

This time, consider the possibilities.  Dontrelle freakin' Willis!  Joe freakin' Mauer!  Miggy freakin' Cabrera!  From the Twins: Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel!  From the Marlins: Jeremy Hermida, Scott Olsen, Josh Willingham (I want dibs on him), Anibal Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, Yusmiero Petit, Wes Helms!

Okay, just kidding on that last one.

Think of it: if the Marlins are contracted and there's a draft, organized sort of like the amateur draft, Dontrelle Willis will be a Royal in 2007.  Think about it.