According to Baseball America (sub. req’d), MLB is close to finalizing its downsizing of the minor leagues. In, probably, early December, MLB will offer “Professional Development Licenses” on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to 120 minor league teams. The structure for those teams, with 30 at each level, will be:
AAA–Two leagues, divided east and west.
AA–Three leagues, one each in the central US, the south and the northeast. This more or less follows the existing Eastern, Southern and Texas Leagues.
High A–Three leagues, one each in the mid-Atlantic, the midwest and the northwest. Many of the teams in the current, low A Midwest League will simply become high A teams. Many teams from the short season Northwest League will do the same. The league in the mid-Atlantic will be made up of teams moving from the short season New York-Penn League, along with teams from the Carolinas that are currently in the Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues.
Low A–Three leagues, one each in California, Florida and the southeast. The California teams will come mainly from the existing, high A California League. The Florida teams will be from the existing Florida State League. The remaining league will be made up of teams moving from the existing Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues.
This probably means very little will change for the Pirates beyond the loss of their West Virginia Black Bear and Bristol affiliates. CEO Travis Williams recently told the Bradenton Herald that they would remain affiliated with the teams in Greensboro and Bradenton. That would mean Bradenton simply moving down a classification and Greensboro moving up, with the latter joining a reduced version of the SAL. There have never been any reports indicating any changes with Indianapolis or Altoona. Both seem to be considered among the more attractive minor league affiliates and both seem to have very good relationships with the Pirates.