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Report: Rays owner has discussed moving team to Montreal

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has had discussions about moving the franchise to Montreal.
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Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has had discussions about moving the franchise to Montreal, reports the New York Daily News.

According to the report, Sternberg has spoken about the possibility with "wealthy Wall Street associates." Sternberg resides in Rye, New York, and worked in finance in New York City before buying into the Rays in 2004.

The Rays routinely struggle to draw fans to home games at 24-year old Tropicana Field, finishing last in attendance in MLB each of the last three years, which has caused the team to operate with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball most years. Sternberg and the team have been unable to secure funding or have plans approved for a new stadium.

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From the report:

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.

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."

Montreal has been without a team since the Expos moved and became the Washington Nationals in 2005. The Expos had played in the city before then since 1969 and also were unable to secure a new stadium.

The news of Sternberg investigating Montreal as a relocation possibility comes after longtime general manager and vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman left to become president of the Los Angeles Dodgers and longtime manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract in successive weeks.

The Daily News says both were motivated to leave due to frustrations over the team's low payrolls and poor attendance despite success in recent seasons.

•​ CORCORAN: Maddon leaving Rays is another team's gain

Maddon currently doesn't have another job lined up and his agent said Saturday the manager is prepared to sit out the 2015 season if need be. Maddon has said he'd prefer to manage in 2015.

The Rays went 77-85 this season and finished fourth in the American League East. It was the team's worst performance since going 66-96 and finishing last in the division in 2007.

Ben Estes