MIAMI — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the potential of the Tampa Bay market makes it worth waiting — to a certain, undefined point anyway — for the Rays to work out a new stadium deal, and he remains optimistic of an agreement.
"I continue to believe Tampa (Bay) is a viable major-league market, and I also believe it may be better than the alternatives than we have out there," Manfred said. "I am hopeful we get to a resolution."
Manfred said they eventually could have to consider alternatives but — with active talks under way on both sides of the bay and a lease at Tropicana Field through 2027 — that is not yet the case.
"There does come a point in time where we have to accept the reality that a market, for whatever set of reasons, can't get to the point that they have a major-league quality facility, and I am not going to indefinitely leave a club in a market without a major-league quality facility," Manfred said.
"It really depends on progress, right?" Manfred said. "If there is a point in time where it starts to grind to a halt and nothing is happening. I don't think we're there. But at that point in time where everybody is panicking, you get this look of 'Where we going next?' That's when you have to start thinking about what your alternatives are. It's hard for me to be more definitive than that."
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan wouldn't disclose if the Rays have decided on a site.
"Unfortunately, we are not quite in a position to publicly announce Hillsborough County's preferred location for a new Rays ballpark," Hagan said. "However, I anticipate making an announcement in the relatively near future."
Primary alternative markets, based on what Manfred said Monday in talking about expansion, are Montreal, Charlotte and Mexico City (or elsewhere in Mexico). Other possibilities for expansion (or relocation) include Las Vegas, Nashville, Portland, San Antonio, Vancouver and the New York metro area.
Manfred maintains there is no deadline for resolution of the Rays search, and has repeatedly said agreement to allow the Rays to look at sites in Tampa as well as St. Petersburg a positive step. While deferring to Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg on the process, Manfred said the timetable is more a matter of entities within the market responding than giving Sternberg a certain amount of time.
Manfred has a similar view of the situation in Oakland, linking the two by saying resolution of the two stadium situations in some fashion is necessary before MLB can proceed with other issues, including expansion.
"We rightly or wrongly have been extraordinarily committed to our existing markets and patient with those markets as a result," he said.
Staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this report.