ST. PETERSBURG — The possibility of splitting seasons between stadiums in Tampa Bay and Montreal wasn’t a topic of much consternation among current Rays.
That’s mostly because few, if any, would have still been with the team when the plan went into effect in 2028; Wander Franco is the only current Ray whose contract runs that long.
But the topic did come up in occasional conversation, including with other players around the league who were curious about how it would have worked given the immense logistical challenges of an in-season move, and across the Canadian border at that.
But Major League Baseball killed the idea before the Rays even got to the hard parts: navigating the complexities and timelines to get open-air stadiums built in both markets, then negotiating enough compensation to get the players union — which was not enthralled but at least willing to listen, director Tony Clark said — to go along.
“I think most players were, like, not agreeing,” Rays union rep Tyler Glasnow said. “They were like, ‘I really have to move that much?’ The details were going to be ironed out, and I think spring training was going to be in the Tampa Bay area so it would really only be you’d have to move twice a year. But in terms of free agents and stuff, the idea of having to go across to another country in the middle of the season is a bit rough.”
The impact on signing free agents is an interesting point, and one the Rays would not have really been able to gauge until it happened.
Players who came up through the Rays system would have had to go along with the plan, but those who had a choice of where to sign might not have wanted the hassle. (There was some thought that young, single players would be more open to the idea than older players with families. And some members of the Rays staff were excited by the possibility.)
Scott Boras, among the game’s well-known agents, repeatedly said he didn’t think players would willingly want to be part of it. The Rays would have had to counter that by offering more money, which they typically don’t do (but did project to have a significantly larger payroll under the plan). Or they would target players who would put up with the inconveniences for the opportunity to play regularly and on a contending team.
“The Rays, they don’t necessarily shop at the very top (of the market) where it’s not like this guy didn’t have a choice, but I just think it would have been a rough situation,” Glasnow said. “But nobody really knows. It was really all hypothetical.”
Glasnow also said the “biggest winners” in the death of the Montreal plan are the Tampa Bay fans, as the team will look once again to get a full-time stadium in the area. “Just try to build a future here in Tampa as opposed to trying to leave,” he said.
Glasnow and fellow pitchers Nick Anderson, Shane Baz, Colin Poche and Ryan Thompson attended the Jan. 16 funeral service in Texas for bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez, who died by suicide the previous week. Baseball operations president Erik Neander, manager Kevin Cash, pitching coach Kyle Snyder and other staff also attended.
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Attending the “beautiful” service, seeing how many people Ramirez impacted, what was said about him and how strong his family was provided some brightness, Glasnow said, in what has been a dark time.
“Obviously no one can see anything like that coming; yeah, it was terrible,” Glasnow said. “All of the guys were in a group chat and everyone kind of talked about it and we have some people in the organization to talk to. … It’s such a sad moment.”
A GoFundMe account has been established for the family under the name of Jean’s father, Carlos Ramirez.
Per one MLB official, it’s clear what resolution the league wants on the Rays future: A stadium built, with terms relative to the team’s economic issues, in Tampa. … Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and other team execs didn’t veil their frustration with MLB’s decision to kill the plan. Asked by Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano if he felt “betrayed” by his fellow owners, Sternberg replied: “That’s a word.” … The Rays’ reaction to the rejection did seem to show they weren’t lying about their belief in the plan rather than it just being a negotiating ploy as some critics maintained. … Seems a good time for a reminder that Tom Brady — yes, that Tom Brady — was a high school catcher taken in the 18th round of the 1995 draft by the Expos. … ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the Rays the fifth-best team at this point, with Randy Arozarena the game’s third-best leftfielder, Brandon Lowe No. 4 at second base, Mike Zunino fifth at catcher, Wander Franco 10th at shortstop. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier and reliever Andrew Kittredge were runners-up. … Credit to pitcher Taj Bradley (58) and infielder Curtis Mead (97) for working their way into prospect status and onto Baseball America’s top 100 list, joining Shane Baz (8), Josh Lowe (44), Vidal Brujan (56). Two traded Rays pitchers were also on the list: No. 50 Matt Liberatore, dealt to St. Louis for Arozarena; No. 86 Joe Ryan, to Minnesota for Nelson Cruz. … Tickets go on sale Monday for spring training games, presuming the lockout is over. ... Rays officials are still working to complete hiring for the minor-league staff. One who left, pitching development director Dewey Robinson, joined the Pirates as a special advisor.
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