Ben Verlander's top five candidates for Major League Baseball expansion
By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Over the past few years, MLB expansion has become more and more of a conversation topic in the baseball universe.
There have been rumors. There have been fans calling for their cities to get teams. You name it — it has been suggested.
The commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, has been quoted multiple times as saying, "We want to be a 32-team league. It would be great for the game."
MLB currently sits at 30 teams, so that means we need homes for two more teams. With baseball likely expanding — maybe even as soon as 2025 — I want to talk about a few places I'd like to see get an expansion team.
Here are my top five expansion ideas:
5. Portland, Oregon
Portland would be a great spot for a new franchise. For one, it makes sense logistically. Adding another team in the Pacific Northwest would help division alignment.
Year in and year out, the Seattle Mariners have the worst travel schedule of any MLB team, flying about 5,000 miles more than the next team. Having a team in Portland would certainly help the Mariners' travel while also helping the rest of the teams on the West Coast.
Also, with the Mariners nearby and the Angels and Athletics not too far away, a Portland team could push the Astros and Rangers into another (possibly new?) division, making travel much less brutal for the teams currently in the NL West as well.
Secondly, there are already plans underway. The Portland Diamond Project is a group dedicated to bringing an MLB team to the city.
The Twitter account @PDXDiamondProj has 14.2K followers, including star athletes such as Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. The bio reads, "Official account of the Portland Diamond Project, leading the movement to bring Major League Baseball to Oregon."
This pinned tweet is from 2018, when the group officially announced plans for the development of a stadium.
4. Charlotte, North Carolina
I would love to see an MLB team in Charlotte. Charlotte has been home to Triple-A baseball for years, with the current team, the Charlotte Knights, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Charlotte is a beautiful city, it's growing each year, and the Knights always do very well with attendance. In fact, they led all of Minor League Baseball in attendance in four of five seasons from 2014 to 2018.
What's more, the city has been vocal about wanting a major-league team, and Manfred has listed Charlotte as a potential candidate for expansion. In my opinion, this would be a great landing spot for a new MLB team.
3. Las Vegas, Nevada
In 2019, the Las Vegas Aviators, the Triple-A affiliate of the Athletics, led all of Minor League Baseball in attendance.
Not only is Sin City craving a baseball team to root for and gamble on, but also Las Vegas Ballpark was built in 2019. It's a brand-new stadium built with the idea of turning it into an MLB ballpark. The stadium was constructed so that when the time comes, a second and third deck of seating can easily be added.
Las Vegas is small, but the craving for baseball and the volume of tourism traffic would make for a great experience for fans and players.
To stay up to date on all things baseball, click here to register for alerts on the FOX Sports app!
2. Montreal, Canada
Montreal deserves its team back!
In 2004, the league forced the sale of the Canadian-based Montreal Expos, which led to Washington D.C. getting the Nationals.
I would think Montreal would be on MLB's short list to get an expansion team, and I would love to see that happen. It was unfortunate how the Expos were taken away from the city, and it would be great for Montreal fans to get a team again 20 years later.
Plus, we know they’re more than capable of hosting a major-league franchise because, well, they did it for more than 30 years.
1. Nashville, Tennessee
Finally, it’s time we get an MLB team in Nashville. The Music City has been the host of a Triple-A team for years, and as Nashville continues to grow and be a favorite vacation destination, an MLB team there just makes sense.
In fact, plans are underway to make this happen. The Nashville Stars — as they would be called, pending approval from MLB, in a nod to the Negro Leagues team that played in the city from the 1930s to the '50s — have an organization ready to roll. Dave Dombrowski, the new general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, is part of the group as an advisor, despite his new role.
The Stars' website, mlbmusiccity.com, states their mission: "Our focus is to secure Major League Baseball approval of an expansion franchise in Nashville, although relocation and rebranding of an existing franchise would also be considered. Our goal is to complete construction of a new baseball stadium by early 2025 and commence competition in the Spring of 2025."
The organization intends to spend this year confirming a location for its new stadium. The plan is to present a proposal at the next MLB winter meetings.
With expansion already this far along in some places, baseball fans might get some answers sooner than later about where we'll be seeing our next MLB franchises.
Ben Verlander spent five years in the Detroit Tigers organization. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.