MIAMI -- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in his annual presser during All-Star week most notably addressed the possibility that expansion is on the near- to mid-term radar. Here's what Manfred had to say about that issue on Monday at FanFest:
Let me go back to a conversation we've had already. I think for us to expand we need to be resolved in Tampa and Oakland in terms of their stadium situations. As much as I hope that both Oakland and Tampa will get stadiums, I think it would be difficult to convince the owners to go forward with an expansion until those situations are resolved.
Once they're done, I think we have some great candidates. I know the mayor of Montreal has been very vocal about bringing baseball back to Montreal. It was not great when the Expos left. The fact of the matter was baseball was successful in Montreal for a very long time. Charlotte is a possibility. And I would like to think that Mexico City or some place in Mexico would be another possibility.
MLB hasn't expanded since the Tampa Bay Rays (then known as the Devil Rays) and Arizona Diamondbacks began playing for keeps back in 1998. In the expansion era, that qualifies as a very long time, so the jump from 30 teams to, say, 32 seems overdue. This isn't lost on Manfred, of course, as he's all but encouraged speculation on that front. As he says above, the A's and Rays' ballpark situations need to be settled before expansion reaches the front of the queue. It's possible, of course, that one or both of those teams will be relocated, and that turn of events, while unlikely, would certainly alter the expansion landscape.
Manfred explicitly named Montreal, Charlotte, and Mexico City as possible MLB destinations. While Manfred has made a point of expanding baseball's global footprint and no doubt has long-term designs on expansion beyond the U.S. and Canada, Mexico City presents a number of challenges. Those challenges range from the city's high altitude to the city's relative modest corporate presence.
In any event, Manfred has once again laid out a vague expansion timeline -- after Oakland and Tampa/St. Pete achieve some kind of closure -- and specific destinations. It's going to happen, and it may happen sooner than most fans realize.