Expanding into Mexico brings the most potential new MLB fans of any realistic site. Mexico has a 120 million people. While not nearly as wealthy as its northern neighbor, Mexico has the 15th largest economy in the world.
Mexicans are familiar with baseball. They have their own pro league with televised games. While soccer will always hold Mexico’s heart, there should be room for a national MLB team.
With a nationwide television deal akin to the Blue Jays Canada-wide deal with Rogers Cable, Mexico could potentially generate sufficient revenue for a MLB team. With the right location, they might even be able to keep the seats filled.
The place to start would be the most populated metro area in the Americas, Mexico City. Mexico City’s GDP ranks seventh in North America. It has the people to fill the seats and the potential for suitable television revenues.
A drawback to Mexico City is distance. Mexico City averages markedly further from the current MLB locations than those locations do one another. Baseball plays 162 regular season games – often playing a game in a city one day and flying to another city to play the very next day. Division opponents would be disadvantaged by the extra travel to Mexico City. Mexico City’s team would be competitively disadvantaged even worse.
Another serious issue is altitude. Mexico City sits at 7,380 feet (2,250 m) in elevation – more than a third again the altitude of Denver. The higher the altitude, the thiner the air, the more the ball carries. Think of all the problems the Rockies have with pitching but a third again worse. One would think a Mexico City club would have to pay a painful premium for free agent pitching talent.
Nevertheless, given how populous Mexico City is and how central is it to the consciousness of the rest of the nation of 120 million, it is probably still worth a good long look despite its drawbacks.
Monterrey in northern Mexico has been cited by MLB in the past as a potential relocation or expansion site. MLB games have been played there. It is much closer to the rest of the MLB teams than Mexico City. It does not have the altitude issues that Mexico City has.
With a metro area of over five million people and a large middle class, it certainly has potential. However, Monterrey metro’s GDP would be about 70% of Tampa metro’s GDP, currently lowest among MLB teams’ home metros. Just look at the disadvantages Tampa has.
The financial success of a Monterrey team could only be achieved through a Mexico-wide presence. Given Mexico’s tepid baseball fandom, could a team in the far north of Mexico capture the attention of the population centers in the south sufficient to make the big league revenues?
The at times volatile relationship of the Mexican Peso to the United States Dollar might deter moving into Mexico. Players likely will insist on being paid in the more stable dollar. A rapid devaluation of the peso against the dollar could leave the Mexican club in bad shape making its payroll.
Worse still, Mexico is in under the grip of mobsters much like the prohibition era United States. Links to narcos and even gun violence have plagued Mexico’s national sport, soccer. Worries of such issues affecting a MLB team, even if unfounded, could be enough to make Mexico ultimately too hot to touch for MLB.