OK - pitchers and catchers have started reporting (at least for the Mariners, who are weird and started a week early), and soon enough it'll be Spring Training in full bloom, with all the stretching and jogging and drills and split-squadding and wacky green jerseys on St. Patrick's Day and all that. Generally, Spring Training isn't that dramatic or interesting - for most teams, almost all of the 25 major league roster slots are full, so it's just a check to make sure that a team's players aren't suddenly 100 pounds heavier, can still play their position, try out a new position, and figure out which guys who are out of options are going to end up taking those last two or three slots on the major league roster, and which ones will end up hitting waivers and potentially end up with another organization. The games aren't all that interesting, with the major players only playing a few innings, pitchers working a specific inning limit or pitch count, so no one's really playing to win or lose, really - it's just a giant scouting exhibition. So why not try something a little different?
Each season, each team brings several non-roster invitees (NRIs) to camp (587 this season so far, according to Diane at Value Over Replacement Grit); some are young players from their minor league system who aren't on the 40-man roster (and don't need to be), while others are veterans who have been signed to minor league deals with an "invite to camp" - basically a tryout for the major league roster. With most of these veterans, if they don't make the major league squad (and most won't), they'll be designated for assignment, left to decide whether or not to continue with the organization - usually with their AAA affiliate - or to become a free agent and see if any other team will give them a shot.
The problem with these veteran NRIs, at least from the player's perspective, is that they're totally at the mercy of the organization that signed them. Depending on how many people are in camp for that team, they may get minimal playing time before they end up getting let go midway through Spring Training. Face it - if you're a veteran pitcher trying to stick as a 5th starter and a few of the team's minor leaguers are pitching better than expected, the team wants to see them pitch, and the veteran will end up taking a back seat, but won't necessarily get released since the team isn't sure whether or not they're going to stick. If you pick the "wrong team" (or if you didn't really have a choice in the matter) you could end up blowing most of Spring Training stuck on someone's roster, pitching two or three innings before getting released near the end of camp, left to see if any other team is willing to give you a shot. But by that time, teams are already cutting down their rosters, so you're hoping to see if you can catch on to someone else's minor league team with almost nothing to show for it this spring.
So again - let's try something different. Non-affiliate, "independent" Spring Training teams. I put "independent" in quotes because the teams would fall under the MLB umbrella for all legal purposes and things like insurance, etc. I don't know - that's not my area of expertise. But a few teams - maybe two, likely no more than four - that would field unsigned players who wished to play and showcase their talents in Spring Training without having to commit to one organization and rely on them to truly give them the opportunity to try out. Players who played for these "Spring Teams" would still be free agents, free to sign with any team that wished to pick them up, and would be free to leave their "Spring Team" if they chose, however they could not "jump" to another "Spring Team" without permission of the league.
Managers and coaches could come either from current organizations who offer them up to MLB for the role, or veteran managers and coaches not currently with an organization who maybe are looking for a job. Players who wished to be part of the "Spring Teams" could apply to MLB, which would then take the pool of applicants and divide them among the teams. The "Spring Teams" could play at Spring Training facilities that teams recently moved from or other facilities that were available. Come April, the "Spring Teams" disband, only to start anew the following season.
Sure, guys like Johnny Damon or Roy Oswalt wouldn't necessarily need this, but players like Ross Gload, Xavier Nady, or Felipe Lopez might. Guys like Jason Kendall and David Aardsma, who didn't play in 2011 due to injury and are now free agents, would have a place to prove that they're healthy. It's ideal for someone like Dmitri Young or Scott Kazmir; a player who find himself having individual tryouts for specific teams in an effort to get an invite to Spring Training. It's something that would probably never happen, but I think it could be beneficial to pretty much everyone involved.