SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Salt Lake City might be closer to bringing home a Major League Baseball team than many might think.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has long expressed his interest in expanding the league from 30 to 32 teams but noted that expansion wasn’t possible until the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays worked out their stadium issues. Since those comments, the A’s moved to Vegas and Tampa Bay put the finishing touches on plans for a new ballpark in St. Petersburg.
“The deal keeps the Rays in St. Petersburg for the foreseeable future and clears a key hurdle the MLB faced before it could set its eyes on expansion,” said Big League Utah in a newsletter. Now as attention turns to expansion, Big League Utah says reports and analysts agree that Salt Lake City is a favorite.
“That second team, it’s an open question and there’s opportunity there for some billionaire to step up and do big things,” ESPN Senior Writer Buster Olney said on his podcast, Baseball Tonight. “If I’m just sitting here guessing today, and that’s all it is is a guess, I think it’s going to be Salt Lake City.”
Big League Utah noted that Olney believes MLB would want to even out the league’s geography by adding a team in the Mountain Time Zone.
According to Big League Utah, Olney isn’t the only one who believes Salt Lake City is an expansion frontrunner. David Cone, a former Cy Young Winner and ESPN analyst shared his agreeance.
“That’s my handicap right now, that expansion will be on the horizon, we will get two new teams, and Nashville will be one and Salt Lake City will be the other,” said Cone on his “Toeing the Slab” podcast.
“Salt Lake City received praise for its well-funded and civically connected pitch to build a ballpark, reimagine a district and bring a Major League team to Utah,” said Big League Utah. “Described as a ‘sleeper pick’ in a sense, analysts agree that Salt Lake City has made a compelling case and jumped to the forefront of the Western expansion race.”
MLB may still be a few years away from any kind of league expansion. The Associated Press reported that even if MLB moved quickly to expand the league to 32 teams, a new team likely wouldn’t start playing ball until 2028.
There has been no word on what cities would be awarded an expansion team or even a timeline on when league expansion would begin. Salt Lake City, however, jumped into the conversation early, announcing it would be exploring a bid for an MLB team in April.