Many have long speculated about the possibility of the Rays moving to Montreal if things don’t work out in Tampa Bay and the scenario is naturally coming up again now that Andrew Friedman has left for the Dodgers and Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News buried this little tidbit in a column this morning:
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been frustrated in his efforts to get out of Tropicana Field in St. Pete and move to a new stadium in Tampa, but there is growing belief that the economically depressed Tampa Bay area won’t support the Rays no matter where they play. And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.
As Jonah Keri noted on Twitter, this could simply be Sternberg’s (and by extension, MLB’s) latest attempt to put pressure on St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay to build them a new stadium. So you have to take this report with a grain of salt. I value Keri’s insight here. Still, the long-term viability of the Rays was already in question and the franchise has been left reeling over the past couple of weeks. That can’t possibly help the morale of a struggling fan base. Nothing will come of this overnight regardless of the report’s validity, as it is a very complex situation, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.