MLB expansion?  MLBPA chief Tony Clark hopes the league can achieve “a 32-team world.”

MLB expansion? MLBPA chief Tony Clark hopes the league can achieve “a 32-team world.”

At some point in the future, Major League Baseball will expand to 32 teams. I don’t know if it will happen in five years or 50 years, but eventually it will happen. And based on what’s been said by those with the power to make this happen, it sounds like an expansion to 32 teams could come sooner rather than later.

“We’re confident … that we can find ourselves in a world with 32 teams instead of 30,” Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players’ Association, told reporters Tuesday. including the Los Angeles Times. That comes less than a month after commissioner Rob Manfred said in an ESPN profile he would “love to reach 32 teams.”

MLB last expanded in 1998 when the (Devil) Rays and Diamondbacks joined the league. We’re currently in MLB’s longest expansion drought since the league’s initial expansion in 1961. There’s no shortage of viable expansion cities (Charlotte, Montreal, Nashville, Portland, Las Vegas, etc.) or potential owners. Owning an MLB team is very lucrative and a lot of people want to be part of it.

The biggest problem standing in the way of expansion is the Athletics and Rays, particularly their baseball situations. Manfred has said both of these clubs need new stadiums before MLB can consider expansion. Part of that is leverage — MLB wants to continue using Las Vegas as a relocation option as Oakland, for example, seeks a new park in the Bay Area — and part of that is just doing the right thing.

“The condition of the Colosseum is a really serious problem for us,” Manfred said on Tuesday (per die Los Angeles Times). “(Approval for the Howard Terminal project) needs to be done now. It needs to be done. There needs to be a binding agreement in Oakland quickly.”

Last year, Manfred suggested MLB could charge a franchise fee for expansion of more than $2 billion, which would represent a massive cash injection for the 30 current owners. The NHL’s Seattle Kraken paid a $750 million expansion fee in 2021, and with all due respect, MLB franchises are far more valuable than NHL franchises. MLB’s expansion fee will no doubt hit 10 figures.

For players, expanding to 32 teams would mean an additional 52 active MLB roster spots and an additional 80 40-man roster spots. It also means more minor league affiliates and more opportunities. Whenever MLB has expanded in the past, offense has increased in the short term because the pitching talent pool is diluted, then levels off. There are many talents to support 32 teams.

Expanding to 32 teams would presumably create two 16-team leagues and eliminate the need for daily play between leagues, although universal DH took strength from that. It’s likely that MLB will realign to four divisions with four teams per league and maybe expand into the postseason as well (14 teams?). That’s my speculation, although it’s not hard to imagine an expansion driving all of these changes.

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