ST. PETERSBURG — With attendance at Tropicana Field "well below expectations" this season, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said it will be "more difficult" to make stretch-run acquisitions that add to the payroll.
Sternberg, speaking at Tuesday's game, said there had been no change in the stalemate with the city of St. Petersburg on a potential new stadium, but it was "great to see" that a coalition of business leaders from both sides of the bay will look at the issue: "Any movement is good movement, any discussion is good, and I'm very pleased and happy that people care enough that they're willing to chat about it."
He also said he was in favor of potential realignment and related changes to MLB's scheduling format. "Basically any change I think I'd view as positive," he said. "We've got as tough a sled to haul as anybody does. Any respite there would be helpful."
The Rays rank last in the American League and 29th overall with an average of 18,585 fans, a dropoff of 15 percent from this point last season and putting them on pace to draw 1,505,385, their lowest since 2007. "You prepare for everything you can, but we've dealt with it," Sternberg said. "I've seen this movie before. We've seen it; we know what we have to do. It's fell short of expectations; it's not the first time."
Sternberg said he "cannot imagine a time" they wouldn't be in position to make trades that add payroll, but they have to factor in the costs in terms of dollars spent and players traded. "Any time we consider adding payroll, it comes at the expense of the future," he said. "And adding payroll is more difficult this year given the reality of our attendance."