Salt Lake City named favorite for MLB expansion team by ESPN insider

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Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 14:01:08-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Saying Major League Baseball expansion is "destiny," a respected ESPN insider is calling Salt Lake City a favorite to land one of two teams that are expected to be awarded.

In an article Tuesday detailing the expansion process and hurdles that must be faced in the coming years, Jeff Passan listed Salt Lake City and Nashville as the current front-runners for a new franchise, although he put the brakes on a quick timeline for baseball to make its way to northern Utah.

Passan highlighted the similarities between Salt Lake City and Nashville, including their near identical media market size and focus on being two of the country's fastest-growing cities. Overall, though, he wrote, "Nashville's and Salt Lake City's reputations as front-runners is in large part due to their preparation and planning."

Salt Lake City's position as a favorite was supported last week with the announcement that the Miller Family has committed to building a $3.5 billion mixed-use development project in The Power District that includes a stadium.

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As part of the article, Passan detailed the support an expansion bid has from local state officials, as well as a former big league superstar.

"Even Dale Murphy, a two-time National League MVP and Portland native who long had vouched for the Portland Diamond Project, switched his allegiances to the Utah group," wrote Passan.

Although Utah's capital city would be the smallest among MLB teams in population size, Passan wrote the support fans give to current teams such as the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake shows it's a big league town.

Passan also noted that MLB owners are reciprocating Salt Lake City's interest in an expansion team by inviting local leaders to visit teams during spring training, which he said is an "invitation that's not extended blithely."

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While dreams of opening day along the Wasatch Front are vivid in the minds of Utahns, Passan said many obstacles remain before expansion can formally be announced. It's believed the A's current situation regarding a possible move to Las Vegas and a stadium issue for the Tampa Bay Rays must be resolved before Commissioner Rob Manfred gives the green light for new teams.

Should the Rays be unable to secure a stadium in Florida, Passan noted that Nashville or Salt Lake City could be a possible relocation site for that franchise.

With so many hoops to go through, it may take five years or longer for Salt Lake City to be called to the plate to bring baseball to Utah, but no matter how long it takes, Passan said expansion is happening.

"The inevitability is real," he wrote. "Expansion is coming to Major League Baseball. In what form, in what cities, in what year -- all of those questions will be answered in time. It's destiny."