Back in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed (and later truncated) Major League Baseball's regular season, a veteran front-office employee made a prediction to CBS Sports: the league would in time make up the money they lost during those quiet months, the source said, and they'd do it in part by expanding to 32 teams over the coming decade. (CBS Sports had covered the possibility and business of MLB expansion a year earlier, in July 2019.) 

Nearly five years later, that prophecy seems likely to hit at some point in the not-so-distant future. ESPN's Jeff Passan reported last week that everyone expects the league to move to 32 teams, albeit probably not before next decade. We broke down everything you need to know here.

If you need more evidence that it's a matter of when, not if MLB adds clubs, consider that incumbent franchise owners are already sounding the horn as a way to bilk more public funding from their current markets. "There is likely to be, in time, an expansion of our sport to a couple of additional cities," Arizona Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick said recently. 

A zen thinker approaches life with the belief that nothing is inherently good or bad. We're not going to practice that philosophy here. Oh no. We've decided to let the lizard brain do what it does, resulting in us digging into the pros and cons of further expansion. As you read on, bear in mind that some of these might seem trivial. Others might clock different to different folks. 

With those caveats out of the way, let's get to it.

Matt Snyder will take the pros while RJ Anderson has the cons.


1. New revenue

An easy and obvious plus is the chance for both more TV/streaming eyeballs and more butts in the seats. With more televised games, there are more chances for viewers in any given locale. In new cities, there's a great chance new viewers come with the team, at least to start (they need to have success quickly in order to best build a fan base, obviously, but there's always a first-year spike). There's also a huge first-year bump in attendance. It was a while back, obviously, but we can look at the four most-recent expansion teams for proof. 

  • The Marlins drew 3,064,847 in their first year (1993). That was good for seventh of the 28 MLB teams. Can you believe that? The Marlins in the top 25% of attendance?!?! The only other year they've been over 2 million came in 2012, their first year in Marlins Park. 
  • The Rockies drew 4,483,350 in 1993, the most in all of baseball. They've had better success than the Marlins in maintaining high attendance figures (and Mile High Stadium held more fans than Coors Field does), but that still represents the franchise record for attendance in a season. 
  • The Rays' first season was 1998 and they saw 2,506,293 in attendance, which was 14th in baseball. Yes, in the top half. They've yet to top the 2 million mark again. 
  • Also joining the league in 1998, the Diamondbacks drew 3,610,290 in their first season, good for third-highest after the Rockies and Orioles. That remains the franchise high and they haven't topped 3 million again since 2002, though they've also only dipped below 2 million three times (2021-23), excluding 2020. Coming off the World Series appearance, they'll easily top 2 million again in 2024.

These initial spikes in revenue are great for the league. The hope is roots with a new regional fan base hold as well as they have with the Rockies and, to a lesser extent, the D-backs. Speaking of which ... 

2. Untapped regions

In using the examples of the Rockies and Diamondbacks, the staying power of new teams can come through untapped markets. Before those two franchises, there were no teams between -- longitudinally -- the Twins/Royals/Astros/Rangers and the West coast teams. That's a vast section of America. With the Denver and Phoenix markets being as big as they are, it made total sense to plant teams there and watch the fan bases grow over the years. It worked well. 

Florida was a bit more tricky, with so many snowbirds going south with an allegiance to marquee teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. It's hard to break through that forcefield. There are various issues with both teams, but it's worth considering something like -- while looking at big markets without an MLB team -- "Indianapolis simply has too many die-hard Cubs, Reds and White Sox fans." 

What regions could be untapped? Well, Portland, Ore., makes sense. It's not that close to Seattle, but is close enough that a rivalry could grow there between the Mariners and an expansion team. Once the A's end up fleeing Oakland, we'll say to Las Vegas, as they intend, maybe Sacramento could house a team and draw from the jilted A's fan base -- they'd never start cheering for the Giants, that's for sure -- while also drawing in some locals who didn't previously root for an MLB team. Salt Lake City, Utah, also seems like it works well. 

Nashville has been bandied about while we'll hear Charlotte, too. I'd worry about the Braves fan base in both, as well as the Cardinals fans in Nashville, but otherwise either could be viable. 

Regardless of specifics, drawing from the D-backs and Rockies examples, find a region that would be amenable to a new sports franchise without having too much allegiance to established MLB teams. 

If that can be found, adding two franchises like the D-backs and Rockies is a huge plus for baseball. The more fans the better.

3. Less leverage for current owners

Owners love to threaten to move cities in order to draw taxpayer money from local governments for either renovations to existing ballparks or new ballparks altogether. Just in my lifetime alone, I can remember both the White Sox and Giants threatening to move to St. Petersburg before, eventually, getting deals to stay put and clearing the way for the Devil Rays expansion franchise. The Expos left Montreal to become the Washington Nationals, so sometimes those threats become reality. We're now in the process of watching the A's relocate. Owners from teams like the Brewers and Diamondbacks have at least hinted that maybe they might eventually need to maybe, possibly leave, even if they really -- they swear! -- don't want to leave. 

It's all part of the dance of eventually making ordinary citizens help finance ballparks for billionaires, clearing the path for those billionaires to make more money. 

The good news with two more teams in new locales is that would be two more viable major-league cities off the board when it comes to places to move. That won't stop them, but "we're moving to Fargo" is a lot less threatening than Nashville or Portland or Salt Lake City or Charlotte.


1. Disruptive to offensive environment

One of the great questions of the '90s is what, precisely, spurred the home-run barrage. Steroids are often blamed the most, but two rounds of expansion in a short period invariably played a role in the offensive outburst. There are only so many quality pitchers, and introducing four new teams to the equation over the course of six seasons left teams starting and deploying arms who would otherwise be stored in the minors.

Predictably, the league ERA jumped from 3.74 to 4.18 when the now-Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies were introduced in 1993. That figure continued to climb for a few subsequent seasons before plateauing. The same effect can be found around the 1998 installment of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. The league ERA increased from 4.38 to 4.42 from 1997 to 1998, then peaked at 4.76 in 2000. 

FanGraphs' Kiri Oler, previously an analyst with the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins, investigated in 2017 how the offensive environment had changed in previous cases of expansion. Oler went into greater detail than we'll touch on here, but she reached the same basic conclusion about expansion begetting offense:

To summarize the mountain of data we've flung ourselves down in pursuit of the White Rabbit that controls competitive balance: Replacement-level hitters are bad; replacement-level pitchers are worse, and because of injuries, even more replacement-level pitchers are required than hitters. Meanwhile, if enough replacement-level pitchers flood the majors, a spike in offense could appear as if from nowhere, not unlike the Cheshire Cat, who is here to remind us how arbitrary sports fandom really is.

MLB teams, even good ones, are struggling to field enough capable pitchers as it is thanks to changing strategies and increased injuries. One can only assume that adding two more teams to the equation would exacerbate those problems, leading to another uptick in league offense -- to what extent would be the question.

2. Possible postseason expansion

It falls short of an immutable law, but in general it's fair to think the more teams that populate a league, the more of those teams make the playoffs. 

To wit, MLB's postseason format has already changed at an atypical pace over the last few decades. Until 1969, the postseason entailed the World Series and nothing else. The League Championship Series were introduced in 1969, and the two-round format was preserved until 1994, when the wild card (and the Division Series round) was introduced. MLB then added the Wild Card Game in 2011, and, the last two years, has built out the playoff format to include 12 teams and four rounds.

There are a few ways to contextualize that growth. One way is to note that there were 20 teams in 1968. MLB has since expanded by 10 teams during the regular season while adding 10 playoff spots as well. Another way is to point out that MLB left its playoff format untouched until 1969, then let 25 years pass before changing it again. MLB has since changed it twice in the last 30 years since the introduction of the wild card.

Adding two more teams to the mix would, in all likelihood, eventually result in more teams making the playoffs -- if for no other reason than to extract even more money from national broadcast deals and consumers. Fans would come to accept it, as they have time and again, but at a certain point MLB threatens to reduce the significance of its own regular season. That would, no doubt, come with its own trade-offs.

3. Potential loss of division rivalries

If and when MLB expands to 32 teams, it's only reasonable to assume a realignment of the divisions will be an accompanying move. That can go a number of ways, but we suspect the numbers four and eight will come into play: either in the form of four eight-team divisions (similar to how MLB was structured before expansion in the '90s) or eight four-team divisions, which is more akin to the contemporary structure. 

Either way, it seems more likely than not that some current division rivalries would be lost in the shuffling. MLB would almost certainly preserve the biggest of the bunch: the Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants, Cubs-Cardinals, and so on. Other rivalries would likely not be as fortunate to survive the cut, depending on how things break.

In the grand scheme of baseball and life, perhaps this isn't that big of a deal to most people -- we're listing it third for a reason. The current league structure is not a product of natural law. Rivalries can and often do change on an organic basis anyway. Think about how Dodgers fans have spent the last few years more concerned with the Padres than the Giants. Even some of the ones that feel permanent -- Braves-Mets, Cubs-Brewers, Rangers-Astros -- weren't in place heading into the '90s. 

Even so, we felt obligated to include this because for some fans, their team's rivalry with so-and-so is one of the most cherished aspects of their fandom. 

There's always a cost to progress, to moving forward. It's easy to understand why the league and its franchise owners would do the math and find it in favor of further expansion. For everyone else, it's just as fair to have hang-ups about the prospect.