With Major League Baseball typically sharing a tentative schedule for the next season with teams early every year, the Oakland A's were supposed to have figured out by the end of December where they'll play in 2025 and beyond before moving to Las Vegas in 2028. That didn't happen. A mid-January deadline passed. Soon enough an end-of-January target will, too.
Even after the A's secured the deal to leave Oakland permanently, the franchise's near-term future remains in limbo. It's not just the MLB-low payroll or the lack of significant improvement of a roster from a team that went 50-112 last year. It's something as fundamental as not having a home following the expiration of their lease with the Oakland Coliseum after this season.
Here is what you need to know about where the A's stadium plans currently stand, according to multiple people involved with the process to find the team a home.
What is holding up the decision?
It's pretty simple: local TV money. The A's contract with Comcast to broadcast their games on NBC Sports Bay Area calls for the team to receive about $70 million next year, sources said. But if the A's aren't in Oakland, the regional sports network is no longer bound to pay the rights fee. The delicate balance between maximizing TV money and securing a temporary home is complicated by the strict nature of the Comcast deal. Even a move to play in a Triple-A park in Sacramento, about 85 miles northeast of Oakland, would not be covered under the A's current contract.
Already the move to Las Vegas will take the A's from the 10th-largest TV market to one ranked 40th. Clearly TV money was a secondary consideration for the permanent move. But a temporary one, even if the A's negotiate a new deal with Comcast or another regional sports network, could be for a fraction of what they're set to receive now. That very conundrum -- and the leverage Comcast holds -- is gumming up a resolution.
What are the likeliest options?
The two cities at the top of the list, according to sources: Sacramento, the home of the San Francisco Giants' Triple-A affiliate, and Salt Lake City, which would love to use the A's as proof of concept that it warrants an expansion franchise in the future.
Both cities have NBA franchises that regularly sell out all of their home games. Sacramento is the 20th-ranked TV market, while Salt Lake City is 27th. Sacramento offers an easier short-term solution -- mayor Darrell Steinberg told the San Francisco Chronicle he is "over the moon about the possibility" -- while Salt Lake City is, for MLB, the longer-term play.
Sacramento's Sutter Health Park seats more than 10,000 -- and, with standing-room-only tickets and lawn seats, can go up to 14,000. The ownership group in Salt Lake, which previously controlled the Utah Jazz, is building a new Triple-A stadium for 2025 in South Jordan, Utah, that could seat up to 11,000.
While Sacramento previously had shown no aspirations to bring MLB to town, Salt Lake City has been effusive in its desire. After A's officials recently toured the city to assess its viability, Big League Utah, the group at the heart of Salt Lake City's efforts, erected seven billboards around the city that said: "UTAH WANTS THE A'S."
Were the A's to land in Sacramento, they could renegotiate their deal with NBC Sports Bay Area, which broadcasts Kings games. Should they move to Salt Lake City, sources said, the team could land a new deal, though because that television territory currently belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, it would add an extra layer of negotiation.
Could they stay in Oakland?
Potentially, though it's unlikely. The A's do own 50% of the Coliseum -- and the City of Oakland, still stinging from the A's leaving town, owns the other half. The team and city haven't talked in 10 months, sources said, and so if a conversation about extending the lease for three more years is to come, it would be at the A's behest.
The situation really will be a litmus test for how much A's owner John Fisher is willing to do for money. Staying in Oakland would mean going hat in hand to politicians who find his actions loathsome and negotiating with them. It would mean inviting constant sell-the-team chants -- the sort of thing that might crop up in Sacramento and almost certainly wouldn't in Salt Lake City. It would mean a near-daily relitigation of a move that a number of power brokers around the sport still see as short-sighted and wrong.
At some point, cutting the cord just makes sense. And the expiration of the stadium lease seems like the right point.
Why don't they just move to Las Vegas?
Using the Triple-A park in Summerlin -- about a dozen miles from the A's stadium site at the old Tropicana hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard -- is an option, though it wouldn't exactly constitute the splash the A's are looking for upon their move to Vegas.
There is precedent. The Washington Nationals spent their first three seasons at RFK Stadium as Nationals Park was being built. But to introduce themselves to a new city in a minor league park with a wretched team is not at the top of the A's priority list and makes Las Vegas, at least for now, a long shot for 2025-27.
Will they make it to Vegas by 2028?
Getting a stadium deal in the first place took plenty of legwork and lobbying. Getting the stadium built by 2028 depends upon staying on schedule -- something at which the A's aren't exactly proving themselves adept. With $380 million in public money going to help fund the $1.5 billion stadium project, a group called Schools Over Stadiums is pushing for a ballot referendum that would put the use of tax dollars to a vote. If shovels aren't in the ground by early 2025, sources said, there are questions about whether the A's really will be ready to debut off the Strip by 2028.
What will the A's look like when they do go to Vegas?
In their proposal to MLB's relocation community, the A's suggested by the time they arrived in Vegas, they could carry a payroll in the $170 million range, as The Athletic first reported. This is from an organization whose largest Opening Day payroll was $92.2 million in 2019.
Is it possible that with less TV revenue and a gate limited by ballpark size that a team would nearly double its highest payroll and more than triple its current one over the next three seasons? Sure. Is it likely? Clearly not. As much as the A's will save money by not bankrolling projects to assess where they'll spend their future, the notion that the team will spend the next three years in a temporary location, without a big-league-caliber TV deal, with gate revenue limited by stadium size and somehow start to carry midlevel payroll necessitates a leap of faith not even the most ardent fan would take.