The Rays have received permission from Major League Baseball's executive council to explore the possibility of playing future split-seasons in Montreal and Tampa Bay, commissioner Rob Manfred said at the owners' meetings on Thursday.
Manfred called this a long-term concept, and the idea would see the Rays playing home games in Tampa Bay early in the season before finishing the year in Montreal. With low attendance records and failed efforts to build a new stadium, the proposal seeks to keep the team in its current market.
"My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come," owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times. "I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration.''
The Times reports the plan would not be implemented until around 2023 and would require negotiating permission with the city of St. Petersburg, which the team has an agreement with for all home games to be played at Tropicana Field until 2027. The Rays would also have to receive approval from the players union, arrange for a new or renovated ballpark in Montreal and work out several other logistics including TV rights and sponsorships.
Montreal was once the home of the Expos, who played there from 1969-2004 before the franchise moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005. The Expos tried a similar plan in their final two seasons in Montreal, playing 22 games in Puerto Rico in 2003 and 2004.
Last year, the Rays pursued building a new ballpark in the Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City before the plan collapsed in December.
The Rays rank 29th in attendance this season, averaging 14,545 per game.