Major League Baseball dropped a bombshell earlier this week by encouraging the Oakland Athletics to seek relocation.
The A’s play in one of the oldest venues in the majors and a stadium that’s not exactly up to par with the newer parks in the majors nor filled with history and charm the way older parks like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park are. The team and the city of Oakland have not seen eye to eye on building a new stadium, so now MLB is allowing them to skip town. If nothing else, Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Oakland to know that the A’s have other options available.
In the event the A’s end up moving, here are some of the cities that could be the club’s new home.
There is already a strong push in favor of the A’s going to Las Vegas. The Raiders also moved from Oakland to Las Vegas, so there would be some good symmetry there.
Of course, it’d also be a punch in the gut to the good people of Oakland. In the past, Manfred has tried to distance MLB from sports betting, which would become a little more difficult with a franchise in Las Vegas. To be fair, there’s no stopping the growing popularity of sports betting, so Manfred might as well steer into the skid.
One of the downsides is that it gets crazy hot in Las Vegas during the summertime, so the A’s would likely need a new stadium with a retractable roof unless they wanted to share Allegiant Stadium with the Raiders, which would be far from ideal.
We also know from triple-A baseball in Las Vegas that the ground can dry out and the ball flies, which could create almost create a second version of Coors Field unless the A’s get a dome.
This would be the shortest possible move while being ideal in many other ways. For starters, Portland has been pushing for an expansion team and has a plan for a ballpark that could host a major league club. Portland is also the biggest city that has a pro sports franchise in another sport but doesn’t have an MLB team.
There seems to be no question that the A’s would be well-supported in Portland, especially with a new ballpark. Giving Portland a team would also be great news for the Seattle Mariners, who are the most isolated team in the majors. The Mariners could cut down a little on their yearly travel and then actually have a close geographic rival.
Manfred would undoubtedly love to bring baseball back to Montreal. Obviously, everything went wrong with the Expos right before the franchise left for Washington. But Montreal is such a great baseball town and the crowd the Blue Jays got for an exhibition game at Olympic Stadium a few years back was a clear sign that Montreal would be supportive of another MLB team.
Of course, there are a few things that could stand in the way of the A’s crossing the continent and international borders. For starters, moving a franchise to Canada on the heels of a pandemic that has prevented the Blue Jays from playing in Toronto would be all kinds of complicated. Any Montreal franchise would also require a new stadium because Olympic Stadium just isn’t viable for a big-league club. Plus, there’s no way that Montreal could play in the AL West, so there would need to be some realignment.
In some ways, Vancouver would be an easier international move for the A’s than going to Montreal. They wouldn’t need to move that far or change divisions. Plus, the Mariners would still get a regional rival that wasn’t so far away. Vancouver also has a strong contingent of Blue Jays fans who regularly travel to Seattle when Toronto comes to town and would surely switch allegiances if Vancouver had its own team.
On the other hand, taking a team to Canada right after the pandemic would create some problems just like it would for Montreal. That could hurt Vancouver in a battle against some American cities.
On the bright side, a new stadium may not be necessary. BC Place is home to an MLS team and a CFL team and hosted the finals of the 2015 Women’s World Cup. It was built with baseball in mind and can seat over 54,000 fans, allowing the A’s to move in right away if necessary.
For a long time, Charlotte has been a triple-A city. But the Charlotte Knights have also been one of the minor league leaders in attendance for many years. Since the city is already home to an NFL team and an NBA team, there should be little question that it could support an MLB club for 81 games every year, especially with a growing population.
Most fans in the Carolinas gravitate toward the Braves for a lack of a better option, so there would surely be a substantial fanbase that’s ready to support an MLB team in Charlotte. Of course, a move to the East Coast would likely force some realignment, especially since you might want a Charlotte franchise in the National League to create a rivalry with Atlanta. But other than those complications, Charlotte would be a great location for the A’s or an expansion franchise.
The city of Nashville has been pushing hard to get an expansion franchise, so they would love to bring the A’s to the Music City.
The Nashville Sounds have been a minor league team since 1978 and played at the triple-A level since 1985. However, a big-league club would be called the Nashville Stars to honor the Negro League team of the same name.
Nashville already has an NFL team, an NHL team, and now an MLS team, so there is a strong base of sports fans in the city. The Sounds have also been among the attendance leaders in the minors, so there would be no worries about market size or fan support. However, much like with Charlotte, MLB would be forced to reorganize the divisions because Nashville couldn’t play in the AL West and might have to move to the National League so the Stars could play the Braves and Reds.
If the A’s move across an international border or Manfred wants an expansion team outside of the U.S., a city in Canada is more likely. But Monterrey is also worth mentioning as a possible destination. It’s actually closer to Anaheim, Arlington, and Houston than either Oakland or Seattle, so it would fit nicely into the AL West. It would also bring a massive fan base with it because every baseball lover in Mexico would claim it as their favorite big league team.
Monterrey is also a much better fit than Mexico City because it’s a more affluent city and wouldn’t have Mexico City’s issues with elevation and an environment that resembles Coors Field. Odds are, Monterrey or any other Mexican city wouldn't be granted an expansion franchise. But since it’s early in the process of the A’s exploring their options, it’s too soon to rule out Monterrey.
Photo: Getty Images