Evan Longoria celebrates his grand slam, which gave the MLB All-Stars a 6-0 lead. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Kyodo)
Evan Longoria celebrates his grand slam, which gave the MLB All-Stars a 6-0 lead. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Kyodo)

To think this was going to be a fairly quiet news day…

Not only did the Rays interview Charlie Montoyo, managerial candidate number six of 10, rumor has it the Rays are trying to deal RHP Jeremy Hellickson, and the stadium stalemate could be coming to a close.

Times staff writers Stephen Nohlgren and Charlie Frago broke the news Tuesday afternoon, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays are nearing an agreement granting the team’s long-standing wish to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County, people who have talked recently to the mayor say.

Council Chairman Bill Dudley indicated a deal should be done “within the next month but definitely before Christmas,” with the hope of bringing it to the City Council for approval before the holidays.

Other sources names report:

Council member Charlie Gerdes said Kriseman told him about two weeks ago “that talks are going very well.”

St. Petersburg developer Craig Sher, who chaired a stadium advisory committee for Kriseman, said this week, “I have been led to believe that there is an agreement in principle.”

The next step is for St. Pete’s lawyers to settle on a monetary fee if the Rays leave for Hillsborough before 2027, when their contract to play at Tropicana Field expires. That number is unknown at the moment, however former mayor Bill Foster reportedly sought about $5 million for each season lost, in the city’s previous proposal.

With the continued rumors of the potential for a move to Montreal, the timing couldn’t be better for the Rays to find traction.

Sourcing newspapers from Montreal, DRaysBay brought to light the specific investors interested in purchasing the Tampa Bay Rays and moving them to Montreal, including son of the Expos’ original owner Stephen Bronfman, and the Bell corporation — each powerful voices.

The estimated cost of bringing an established franchise to Montreal to be about $1.025 billion: $500 million for a new stadium, and $525 million for the team. That’s about four times the amount of money Canadian investors are willing to spend, and that number could grow.

However, Nohlgren and Frago were quick to note,

Apartment complexes, micro-breweries and restaurants are already going up on nearby properties. Ending the stadium stalemate could help the city unlock the Trop’s development potential — with or without a new stadium, Dudley said.

His preference is for a new stadium at the eastern end of the Trop property, combined with a hotel and small convention center for gatherings of 2,000 to 3,000 people. The city could sweeten the pot by giving the Rays full development rights on remaining Trop land, Dudley said.

If that’s not possible, he said, he would like to proceed with developing the Trop acreage without a stadium.

“We are being held hostage” with an undeveloped Trop, Dudley said. If the Ray “are not going to use it, then we want to. If you are not going to use it, it’s best to get on with it.”

Gerdes thinks the Rays will not find what they are looking for in Hillsborough County. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik has locked up prime land in the Channelside district of Tampa and has given no signs that he is eager to devote 10 or 12 acres of his land to a baseball stadium.

Even without land costs, any stadium would cost $500 million to $600 million — and Gerdes doubts that Hillsborough taxpayers would want to shoulder much of that load.

With many of the locations in Tampa no longer available, the chances of keeping the Rays in Pinellas County are increasing.

In other news, the Rays interviewed Triple-A Durham’s manager Charlie Montoyo Monday for the managerial job, as well as Giants bench coach Ron Wotus — candidates six and seven of ten to go through the process so far. Montoyo was interviewed in person with at the GM meetings in Phoenix, near his off-season home. As Marc Topkin asserted, with the other interviewees talking by phone, it would seem the front office gave the two in-house guys, Martinez and Montoyo, the benefit of in-person interviews. Interviews with the final four (Cash, Glanville, and Larkin) are expected to come in the near future. After the first round of interviews are complete, Tampa Bay will cut the field down and conduct a second round of longer, face-to-face interviews.

Per a tweet from Joel Sherman (seen below), the Tampa Bay Rays are moving toward a deal for RHP Jeremy Hellickson to an as of now unspecified National League team. Sources say he will be dealt by weeks end.

While word that the Atlanta Braves are pushing C/OF Evan Gattis hard (the Rays could use another catcher and DH option) Sherman was quick to point that Atlanta probably isn’t one of the teams vying for Hellickson. With the loss of Santana and Harang, the Braves need to get “sure IP” for the rotation — Hellickson may be too risky.

Finally, Major League Baseball sent a contingent of stars to Japan this month to take on a combination of different teams throughout the country. Representing the Rays on this trip are Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and reliever Jeff Beliveau, and all three players came up big in the MLB victory.

Longoria golf-swung his fourth career grand slam to center field, Zobrist hit a ninth inning one-out single, and Beliveau notched his second save of the 2014 season (technically speaking, of course). Now, if Evan can continue that type of production going into the 2015 season.

An open letter to Stu Sternberg

Dear Stu,

While you’ll deny the rumors you’ve been in contact with New York investors regarding a potential relocation to Montreal, you’re adopting the same tactic other owners have used for years now: Exploiting another city — in this case Montreal — as leverage in the fight for a publicly financed stadium. Is Montreal a legitimate threat? Who can really say?

What I will say, you’re not making the organization that I love very likable. Perception is everything, and if the Bay Area perceives you to be less than honest — especially since you haven’t come forward with any evidence the organization is losing money — there’s no way that either side of the bay will vote in favor of a new facility for the Rays.

(And yes, I believe they deserve a new stadium)

In the end, if both Pinellas and Hillsborough voted down their respective publicly funded mass transit referendums, there’s no way a publicly funded stadium will be approved if the organization isn’t up front and honest.



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