When it comes to playing baseball again there is one avenue that Major League Baseball has yet to travel down. Unlike most of the ideas MLB has floated around about playing baseball during a pandemic this one involves little risk and would help teams. It doesn’t mean MLB itself would start playing games, but at least some players would start seeing the game action that they really need.
Contrary to what MLB wants you to believe, affiliated baseball isn’t the only baseball around. There are professional leagues the world over. The landscape of unaffiliated baseball is vast and largely ignored by MLB and MLB-centric fans. Right now most unaffiliated leagues are also shut down due to COVID-19. However, one league just recently started up while another league is soon to follow suit. The Chinese Professional Baseball League is playing regular-season baseball while the Korea Baseball Organization has plans to start their season on May 5th. Both of these leagues should represent a unique opportunity for MLB teams to get their players into game action.
First things first, it’s clear that I’m not talking about superstars. The San Diego Padres don’t want Manny Machado to play in Taiwan, just like the Chicago Cubs aren’t about to want to see Kyle Hendricks pitching in Korea. Those aren’t the type of players I’m talking about, though if a Machado or Hendricks wanted to go and play overseas right now that would be cool. The players who MLB teams should be offering to loan to KBO and CPBL clubs are those in the 20-40 spot on active rosters. The inexperienced and younger players who need as much legitimate game time as possible to continue to hone their craft.
Just think about how beneficial it would be for Clint Frazier to see the field as opposed to hitting in a cage all the time? The Seattle Mariners like Justin Dunn, as they should, but it’s clear there are wrinkles in his game that need to be ironed out. Wouldn’t it be better for him to be pitching out of the bullpen for the Fubon Guardians rather than playing long toss at home? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. In fact, it’s so resounding that I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet.
To be clear I don’t want KBO or CPBL rosters flooded with MLB players. Part of the appeal of those leagues is that they are developing homegrown stars. That can still take place and each team could put aside one or two roster spots for players on loan from MLB during the shutdown. Rules could be put into place to limit playing time so that MLB doesn’t worry about over usage and current KBO and CPBL players don’t have to worry about losing their jobs to replacement players.
The logistics of making this happen aren’t that hard either. We’ve already seen the KBO and CPBL use isolation precautions for foreign players this year. The same precautions and procedures would need to be put in place for any of the players MLB has loaned out. There’s no obstacle that should stop this from happening. I get that it won’t ever happen, but in reality, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be happening as I type.
MLB isn’t about to loan out their players, it’s just, not something they do. It’s not like MLB teams not engaging in any sort of loan program with the CPBL and KBO actually hurts anything. There’s nothing wrong with MLB not taking advantage of this situation. However, think of how fun it would be if they did? It’s a pretty good thought, one that makes a lot of sense and a pipe dream all the same.