Commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday that the Tampa Bay Rays' ongoing dispute with city officials about relocation is "very troubling," and that the league plans to intervene on behalf of the team, reports Eric Fisher of SportsBusiness Journal.
It is unclear how exactly MLB is planning to help Rays owner Stuart Sternberg in his negotiations with St. Petersburg officials -- Selig declined to say if relocation was on the table -- but pressure from the league should at least help the team get beyond its current impasse.
At present, the Rays are tied into an air-tight lease that dictates they must play at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season, which is still in the very, very distant future.
Sternberg has attempted to negotiate an agreement with St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster that would allow the team to explore other stadium sites in the area, but nothing that will allow it to move before completing its lease at the Trop. Foster has also held the threat of litigation over Sternberg's head if he should try moving the team out of the St. Petersburg area, reports the Tampa Tribune.
Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports speculates that the league could help the Rays buy out their lease, which would at least open the possibility of moving sometime this decade. Tampa Bay's per-game attendance this year -- 17,791 as of July 25 -- is the second-worst mark in Major League Baseball, per the Tribune.