Now that the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s appear to have settled their stadium issues, expansion could be the next item on baseball’s to-do list.

And as Salt Lake City continues to position itself for a major league team, a prominent ESPN baseball analyst and a former All-Star pitcher see two cities as the top choices for new teams.

On separate podcasts this week, Buster Olney and Cy Young Award winner David Cone said that after Nashville, Salt Lake City seems the most likely city for an expansion franchise.

“That second team, it’s an open question and there’s opportunity there for some billionaire to step up and to do big things,” Olney said on the “Baseball Tonight” podcast. “If I’m just sitting here guessing today, and that’s all it is is a guess, I think it’s going to be Salt Lake City.”

Olney said he thinks baseball wants to “even out the geography” and put a team in the Mountain time zone.

Cone offered his opinion on his podcast, “Toeing the Slab,” calling Nashville the No. 1 contender.

“The second one is still probably a little bit up in the air. There’s a lot of talk about Portland, Oregon, at one point, but I think Salt Lake City, Utah, might have moved ahead,” he said. “That’s my handicap right now, but expansion will be on the horizon. We will get two new teams. Nashville will be one, and Salt Lake City will be the other.”

The Millers’ big pitch: Inside Utah’s push for an MLB expansion team

Led by the Larry H. Miller Company, a coalition in Salt Lake City calling itself Big League Utah is among those making a case for one of the two possible expansion franchises. The Miller company could ultimately head up an ownership group. The coalition is pitching construction of a stadium on the city’s west side. Most newer major league ballparks were financed through a public-private partnership.

A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll found strong public support for bringing a team to Utah.

Miller Company CEO Steve Starks weighed in on Olney’s and Cone’s comments on X, formerly Twitter, saying “MLB to SLC continues to build momentum! (We weren’t joking . . .)”

The Rays announced an agreement Tuesday with the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County to build a new $1.3 billion ballpark as part of the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, an 86-acre area also known as the Historic Gas Plant District. The proposal features a 30,000-seat stadium with a fixed roof and artificial turf.

The city and county would pay $600 million and the team would be responsible for the rest plus any additions or overruns under the deal.

“Major League Baseball is here to stay, right here,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “As we all know, things don’t always progress in a straight line. But we have all been very fortunate in this region and especially this city are growing up around us and are better-equipped to support a Major League Baseball team.”

With that development and the league scheduled to vote on the A’s plan to relocate to a yet-to-be-built $1.5 billion stadium in Las Vegas, expansion talks could be next on the agenda.

‘I want this here’: Cox waxes bullish on Utah’s MLB franchise chase as Rays work stadium deal
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In July, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told Forbes that when those stadium issues were settled, “we will put together an expansion committee and start talking internally first, about the issues associated with expansion.” MLB would be looking to add two teams for a total of 32.

Manfred said that there would need to be an examination of the impact of the additional clubs, including whether the new teams would be revenue-sharing payors or payees, as well as expansion fees which could potentially reach $2 billion.

“We would discuss what we would be looking for in terms of expansion, and the offset that I do think it fits in,” he told Forbes.

Should public funds be used to build an MLB stadium in Salt Lake City?

But there’s plenty of competition around the country. Another city in the West, Portland, is making a big push. Charlotte, Montreal and Austin are also possible expansion sites and others could emerge.

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