Five Alternative Cities for Baseball’s Next Franchise

Is Major League Baseball coming to a city near you?


Baseball, at least in recent history, has been the most geographically stable of the four major North American sports leagues. The league hasn’t expanded since 1995 when the Diamondbacks and then-Devil Rays were added. No franchise has relocated since the Montreal Expos made the move to Washington, D.C. before the 2005 season. Before that, no team had moved since the Senators left the nation’s capital to become the Texas Rangers in 1972. That appears likely to change.

The long-awaited sale of the NFL’s Washington Commanders by Dan Snyder has turned the ire of the sports world on Oakland and John Fisher, owner of the A’s, and rightfully so. The team currently plays its home games in the dilapidated, 55-year-old Oakland Coliseum, a residence it shares with possums. The invading marsupials may as well don uniforms, as the team is well on its way to being the worst team in the modern era.

Baseball fans have a higher tolerance for rebuilding teams than other sports due to the lack of financial parity between the sport’s largest and smallest markets. What the Oakland Athletics are engaged in, however, is possibly the most egregious example of tanking following a fire sale in the history of the sport. Trading away superstars like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman has helped yield a merely middling farm system; this team is not close to competitive baseball.

Home to many of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Bay Area, Oakland has already lost the NFL’s Raiders and NBA’s Warriors. With the city government justifiably unwilling to foot enough of the bill for a new baseball stadium and the team unable to drum up private investment, the A’s have also decided to duck and run. They’ll join the Raiders as the second failing, poorly-managed franchise to abandon the fans in Oakland for casino money and tourists in Las Vegas.

Setting aside righteous indignation in favor of cynicism, Vegas makes some sense for the A’s. Land to develop abounds, the place is crawling with capital and there is a boatload of unaffiliated baseball fans. Unsurprisingly, they don’t quite seem to have their ducks in a row logistically, but I’ll save that digression for another day. Rather than dwell on the nausea of this reality, I think it’s much more fun to think about where else we could see Major League Baseball in the future.


Buffalo, NY


Buffalo was a finalist city for an expansion franchise in the 1960s but ultimately lost out to San Diego and Montreal. It was once again considered in the 1990s before the league awarded franchises to Phoenix and Tampa. It should once again find itself in consideration the next time a new city is sought for an MLB team.

Sahlen Field, located in downtown Buffalo, was the temporary home for the Blue Jays in spring 2021 until the U.S.-Canada border was more traversable. The stadium is home to the franchise’s Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, and was ready for MLB play with some renovations to the bullpens, facilities, and stadium paid for by the Jays and the league. Once COVID-related seating restrictions were lifted, the Jays averaged 8,677 in attendance at Sahlen Field, just barely the worst mark in the league.

To those familiar with the history of baseball in the city, the strong showing would come as no surprise. On the list of the top 10 single-season minor league attendance records, the Bisons occupy eight spots. Buffalo is a sports-obsessed city, touting one of the fiercest fan bases in both the NFL and NHL. The city itself would be enough to fuel the fan base, but it’s aided by the proximity of population centers like Rochester, NY and Erie, PA, two cities connected to Buffalo by less than 100 miles of I-90.


Charlotte/Raleigh, NC


Charlotte and Raleigh aren’t all that close to one another (about a 2.5-hour drive), but the argument for each is very similar. The two cities collectively house franchises from the three major non-baseball leagues, the Hornets and Panthers in Charlotte and the Hurricanes in Raleigh. Baseball is huge in the state and its neighbor to the south, even without a Major League franchise.

The sport has become a mainstay in the region partly due to a climate in which it can be played year-round without dealing with consistent triple-digit summer temperatures. The Raleigh area is home to storied college programs like UNC, Duke, and NC State. Cast a wider net through North and South Carolina and you’ll find other powerhouses like ECU, USC, Coastal Carolina, Wake Forest, and Clemson. Yet, neither city is less than four hours away from the nearest MLB franchise. For Raleigh, it’s the Nationals and for Charlotte, it’s the Braves.

Outside of baseball, the economics of the cities make a lot of sense. Both were in the top 10 of GDP growth in American cities in 2022. Raleigh, known in conjunction with Durham and Chapel Hill as the Research Triangle, is home to major universities, hospital systems, and, increasingly, technology companies. Charlotte is home to major employers like Bank of America and Lowe’s and was a city fit for a franchise even before the current growth it is experiencing.


Salt Lake City, UT


Joining the Carolinian cities on the list of the fastest-growing cities in the United States is Salt Lake City. The city itself has a population of only 200,00, but the metropolitan area is the 47th largest in the US. The combined statistical area is 22nd, owing to the many population centers surrounding the city.

Growth is great, sure, but the real appeal here is the landscape. The Salt Lake Bees, Triple-A affiliate of the Angels, own the most scenic stadium in the minor leagues. It’s hard not to let the imagination run wild with thoughts of what a modern MLB park could look like with a backdrop like this.

The elevation shouldn’t be an issue; it sits well below Coors Field and the MLB has now played games in Mexico City, which is practically on the moon.


Nashville, TN


Nashville is often floated as a potential expansion city and is appealing for many of the same reasons as Raleigh and Charlotte. The climate is similar and the city is in no-man’s-land in terms of nearby MLB franchises. It’s also home to the Nashville Sounds, one of the better-attended Triple-A affiliates, and the Vanderbilt Commodores, a true NCAA juggernaut.

The Music City is home to the NFL’s Titans and the NHL’s Predators, the latter of which boasted the fourth-best average attendance in the league this season. Tourism is also a major part of the city’s economy. Over 14 million people made their way to Nashville in 2022, visiting sites like the Grand Ole Opry and the honky-tonks of Broadway. There would be no shortage of fans making weekend trips to watch their club and hit the sights.


Vancouver, BC, Canada


One of these things is not like the other. Home to the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada, Vancouver is certainly the least likely team on this list to secure a franchise. But that doesn’t mean it should be. The Blue Jays were in the top 10 of attendance last season and are on track to be there again this year. We’ve put hockey teams in the desert; we can put a baseball team on Canada’s Pacific coast.

Logistics here could be a challenge, but Vancouver sits only about 150 miles north of Seattle, albeit across the Canadian border. On the other hand, local logistics make a strong case for the city. The city’s planning philosophy, known as Vancouverism, places emphasis on a large urban population and strong public transportation. The league has sent officials to look at the city as recently as 2020, so it’s not out of the question. Plus, just look at that skyline.

Jack Connors

Jack Connors is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf and the guitar, and hanging out with his dog.

One response to “Five Alternative Cities for Baseball’s Next Franchise”

  1. J.C. Aoudad says:

    Charlotte is the 2nd-largest CSA without MLB; SLC is #3. Thoughts on #1 Orlando-Lakeland-Deltona? And what’s the latest on Montreal?

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