At the owner meetings this past week, Commissioner Rob Manfred apparently demurred on questions about the two major ballpark issues in baseball, with the Rays trying to split their seasons between Tampa and Montreal, and the A’s potentially moving to Las Vegas. More pressing business at the moment, it seems, with the Collective Bargaining Agreement about to expire and the first labor-related shutdown looming in 27 years.
But that doesn’t mean gears aren’t still moving. Although the A’s have not ruled out figuring out a new stadium plan in Oakland, their efforts have not been met with substantial fervor from the city, and they are looking around.
And now they’ve reportedly taken an affirmative step in the direction of moving – giving themselves options, at least. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, via the Mercury News, the A’s have put in an offer “for an area of land in the Las Vegas Valley that could potentially be used for a $1 billion new ballpark.”
Buying the land – which could be announced in early 2022 – is obviously a critical step in actually putting together a relocation plan. It’s not a lock that the A’s move, but it sets them up to have a place to break ground if nothing comes together in Oakland.
This is not unlike the Chicago Bears purchasing Arlington Park many years in advance of an actual expiration of their lease with the City of Chicago on Soldier Field. You have to give yourself legitimate options if you’re going to even consider building a new stadium – it takes a whole lotta time, involves a whole lotta money, and won’t get started if there isn’t a whole lotta certainty that it can be completed successfully.
To be sure, though, this is still at least a little bit about leverage with the City of Oakland. As I’ve said before, historically, *most* threats to move are merely that: threats. They are designed to get an uncooperative political body to cooperate, or – more dubiously – they are designed to get political bodies to fork over public dollars for a new stadium situation. And, in this situation, the A’s are seeking public investment in the ballpark and surrounding area as part of their proposed plan (together with their private investment). So at some level, even upon the purchase of land in another city, this is still a negotiation.
But it’s definitely an affirmative step toward a move that feels increasingly likely. My gut says MLB wants a team in Las Vegas one way or another.