Intentional or not, ESPN stoked the fires of the Major League Baseball-to-Nashville pipedream on Tuesday afternoon, as MLB writer Jeff Passan reported the league has instructed the Oakland Athletics to begin looking into the possibility of relocating after growing frustration with the team’s new stadium project.
Passan also reported that Las Vegas would be the presumed frontrunner should the A’s actually follow through with relocation. He also said that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned Nashville, Portland, Vancouver, Charlotte and Montreal as potential expansion markets.
"The future success of the A's depends on a new ballpark," A's owner John Fisher said in a statement. "Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB's direction to explore other markets."
Whether it be through relocation or expansion, could Nashville realistically have a chance of actually landing an MLB franchise? The short answer is: probably not.
Manfred is on record stating that he won’t consider expansion until the Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays get new ballparks.
Rays' owner Stu Sternberg deserted plans for a new stadium 2018. The team is tied to Tropicana Field until 2027, and once the lease expires, the Rays have permission from MLB to split their home games between Tampa and Montreal.
The A’s also likely aren’t moving either. The team has been in talks to build a new waterfront ballpark since 2018. But those plans have been held up in litigation and political red tape, and even with an expedited approval, the new park likely won’t be ready until 2027.
MLB’s statement on Tuesday was nothing more than an empty threat to facilitate some progress toward the reported $1 billion stadium project in downtown Oakland at Howard Terminal.
“MLB is concerned with the rate of progress on the A’s new ballpark effort with local officials and other stakeholders in Oakland,” the league’s statement read. “The A’s have worked very hard to advance a new ballpark in downtown Oakland for the last four years, investing significant resources while facing multiple roadblocks.
“We know they remain deeply committed to succeeding in Oakland, and with two other sports franchises recently leaving the community, their commitment to Oakland is now more important than ever.”
While the appetite for professional baseball in Nashville certainly exists, and a local group has been fundraising for a few years trying to catch the eye of Major League Baseball, it just doesn’t seem feasible for Nashville to be awarded an MLB team under the current circumstances.
There’s an estimated $2.2 billion expansion fee that would need to be paid, then MLB would have to work out regional television contracts with Cincinnati, St. Louis and Atlanta, as creating a new Nashville market would cut into revenue streams for all three teams.
"Expansion is not purely additive from the perspective of the existing owners,” Manfred said recently. “There are huge shared revenue streams that are diluted as a result of having 32 as opposed to 30 as your denominator, and if that was in fact the expansion number, and that has to be taken into account, as well.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_