Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game 3

Stuart Sternberg claims that MLB “no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area”

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Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is trying to get a new ballpark, but he’s got almost no leverage to do so. He’s locked in an iron-clad lease with St. Petersburg, keeping the Rays in Tropicana Field. The city is willing to at least entertain the idea of another ballpark someplace else in St. Pete, but Sternberg is prohibited from exploring moving the team across the bridge to Tampa.

So what can he do? Offer vague and ominous threats, mostly. He went before the Hillsborough County Commission, and said this about the current prospects of the Rays:

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said Thursday that he wants to keep his team in the region, but “Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area.”

The nature of the league’s lack of faith in the region was lest unspecific, but he hinted that contraction of the Rays, while not necessarily a priority of the league, is “an option.” This is nothing new for Sternberg, of course, as he has said in the past that he thinks the league will “vaporize” the Rays.

In reality, no, it’s not an option at all. Indeed, as we’ve noted several times here, it’s basically fantasyland stuff, inasmuch as contracting a team would cost Major League Baseball and its owners something on the order of a billion dollars, plus lawsuits and the risk of government meddling in the league’s business. They’d do it if the game was in some existential crisis, but it’s not. One owner has a bad lease and is scraping by.  That’s a small problem, all things considered, not one which will ever inspire the league to wade into the muck of contraction.

I feel from Sternberg because, yes, his and the Rays’ situation is awful for them.  But it’s one that is simply going to require some creativity and maybe some guts (and the defense of a lawsuit from St. Petersburg), not the nuclear option of contraction.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.