In September, the Tampa Bay Rays officially announced their deal for a new $1.2 billion ballpark in St. Petersburg. The new 30,000-seat stadium will take over for Tropicana Field in time for Opening Day in 2028.
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. Commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed his interest in expanding the league from 30 to 32 teams but noted it wasn’t possible until the Oakland A’s and Rays resolved their stadium issues.
In light of the news, expansion talks have taken over the baseball world, with many reporters and analysts predicting where the teams may land. Many analysts agree that Salt Lake City is pulling ahead.
“That second team, it’s an open question and there’s opportunity there for some billionaire to step up and to do big things,” said ESPN’s Buster Olney on his Baseball Tonight podcast. “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.”
The Senior Writer noted that he believes the MLB would want to even out the league geography by adding a team in the Mountain time zone.
Echoing the words of Olney, former Cy Young Winner and ESPN analyst David Cone also described Salt Lake City as his frontrunner in the West.
“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,” the five-time World Series champion explained 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. 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.