Report: MLB Considering Realigning into Florida, Arizona Leagues Amid COVID-19

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2020

The Cactus League logo is shown at front as the New York Yankees take batting practice before a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Major League Baseball has reportedly discussed league and divisional realignment for the 2020 regular season based on where teams play their spring training games.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the proposal would see half of MLB's 30 teams split into three divisions in Florida's Grapefruit League and the other 15 teams split into three divisions in Arizona's Cactus League.

MLB is searching for answers during the coronavirus pandemic, and one way to possibly play a shortened season would be to have teams play all their games at spring training sites in Florida and Arizona with no fans in attendance.

The 2020 MLB season was supposed to start in late March, but it was suspended indefinitely to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Nightengale provided a breakdown of what the leagues and divisions would look like:

GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE

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  • NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates
  • SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles
  • EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins

CACTUS LEAGUE

  • NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics
  • WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels
  • NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals

Los Angeles Angels senior advisor of baseball operations and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is among those who seem open to the idea: "When you're trying to get really creative, why say no now? So you have a unique season. I've got no problem with that. I'm not sure we’ll be able play in our own cities across the country, so if you split it up like that, it's a possibility."

Per Nightengale, the designated hitter would likely be used in both leagues, and there would be at least one doubleheader played every night.

Also, 26 different ballparks would be available to MLB, including the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field, the Miami Marlins' Marlins Park and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field.

While the season will likely have to be shortened under this or any other scenario, it would allow for a normal playoff format and would conclude with the Grapefruit League champion facing the Cactus League champion in the World Series in late November inside a domed stadium.

The proposed temporary divisions would create some unique rivalries and also make the road to the playoffs much easier or tougher for certain teams.

The New York Yankees would be the big winners since the Rays and Boston Red Sox would be out of their division, and all four of their divisional opponents would be teams that didn't reach the playoffs last season.

The Grapefruit League South would feature four legitimate playoff contenders in the Rays, Red Sox, Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, while the Grapefruit League East would see last year's World Series participants, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, compete in the same division.

While it is far from an ideal solution, any idea that leads to Major League Baseball having a 2020 season and crowning a champion is one that should be considered.