Sources: MLB, players talk realignment

Updated: June 12, 2011, 6:43 PM ET
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

A simple form of realignment being seriously considered has been raised in the labor talks between Major League Baseball and the players' association, according to four sources: two leagues of 15 teams, rather than the current structure of 16 teams in the National League and 14 in the American League.

According to a highly ranked executive, one consideration that has been raised in ownership committee meetings is eliminating the divisions altogether, so that 15 AL and 15 NL teams would vie for five playoff spots within each league. Currently, Major League Baseball has six divisions.

A source who has been briefed on the specifics of the labor discussions says that the players' union has indicated that it is open to the idea of two 15-team leagues, but that the whole plan still hasn't been talked through or presented to the owners.

Sources say the talks are serious, and while one executive believes the odds of change are less than 50-50, another says this is the type of discussion that can gather momentum and become a reality.

A sticking point involves interleague play. Because of the odd number of teams in each league, it is possible that a team in contention late in the season will have to be playing its final games in interleague play.

One of the biggest issues that would have to be resolved in any realignment resulting in two 15-team leagues is which of the National League teams would switch to the American League.

Two highly ranked executives believe the Houston Astros would be a possibility, because a switch to the AL for Houston would foster a rivalry between the Astros and the Texas Rangers.

The Marlins could be another candidate, a source suggested.

"There are still a lot of details that would have to be discussed," one source said.

Buster Olney is a senior MLB writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine

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