Increasingly International Game Is Another Reason for MLB Expansion

One of my themes this season has been that it’s a good time for another round of MLB expansion.  It’s been 16 years since the last round of expansion in 1998, which matches the longest stretch between new expansion teams since expansion began in 1961.  Further, team values are now escalating rapidly following the lull caused by the Great Recession, meaning bigger expansion fees.

Another reason that expansion in the next couple of years would be make sense is that MLB is continuing to increase the base from which it draws talent.  Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Cuba, Brazil, and Columbia are all sending increasing numbers of players to play in the United States.

The increase in top talent from Japan and Cuba, although gradual, has been particularly striking.  Yesterday, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka threw complete games victories, Jose Abreu hit another home run, and Yoenis Cespedis made another amazing throw from the outfield. (Other foreign notables Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu had notably bad games yesterday, with Puig garnering a golden sombrero and Ryu losing 5-0, but that’s baseball.)

As I’ve written before, the small stream of Cuban players in recent years is beginning to become a flood as major league teams snap these players up for increasingly enormous bonuses.  [As an aside, it’s worth noting that the number of Cuban players in Japan’s NPB, both former defectors and now non-defectors who are allowed to play in Japan, has increased dramatically in the last two seasons.]  Also, while there won’t be any more Tanakas or Darvishes coming to the U.S. in the next few seasons, there are many other fine arms in Japan who should be emigrating to MLB a couple a year for the forseable future.

The upshot is that there is plenty of talent to fill a couple of expansion teams with plenty more talent on the way.  Even assuming some dilution of talent by expansion, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  A few more mediocre players helps the best players and biggest stars shine all the more brightly.  One of the reasons it now looks like this generation may have no 300-game winning pitchers is that it’s been so long since the last round of expansion.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad, Baseball History, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, Texas Rangers

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