Rob Manfred claims that allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to play a portion of their schedule in Montreal is the best way to keep the team in Florida. Instead, it is the first step to relocation.
Back in December, it appeared as though the Tampa Bay Rays were going to be forced into remaining at Tropicana Field, and the St. Petersburg-Tampa Bay area until 2027. The Rays attempts at financing a new ballpark in the area were unsuccessful, and St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman shot down any discussions of the team playing half their games in Montreal, forcing them to abide by their current lease.
Even though Stu Sternberg had continued to explore such an option, it seemed to be nothing more than posturing. However, commissioner Rob Manfred has thrown his support behind the sister city plan, saying that it may be the best way to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay area.
“I am 100 percent convinced and, more importantly, the other owners have been convinced by Stu, that this is best way to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay,” Manfred said.
In theory, this plan would split the season between the two cities. The first half of the year would be played in Tampa Bay, with the second half playing in a new outdoor stadium that would need to be built in Montreal. There are major hurdles that would need to be overcome, such as having that new stadium ready to go and figuring out housing for players and employees in both cities, but, in theory, the Rays would not be going anywhere permanently.
That statement of sister city keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay seems disingenuous at best. It is hard to imagine that Montreal would build a new stadium just to have 40 games throughout the season. While there would be other uses for the stadium, such as concerts or other events, a larger payoff would be expected.
Instead, this seems like the first step towards relocation. After the Rays new stadium plans fell by the wayside, it felt inevitable that the U-Haul trucks would be backed up to the Trop the moment the 2027 season came to an end. Montreal, had an expansion team not been awarded, always felt like a possibility.
Unless circumstances change dramatically, it is unlikely that the Rays remain in Tampa Bay beyond the end of their lease. The sister city idea basically gives Montreal a trial run, allowing Major League Baseball to see if the city will support a franchise. If so, the Rays may have found their new home.
The Tampa Bay Rays sister city idea is not entirely dead. Should it happen, this is likely the first step to relocation.