Former Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista has urged Major League Baseball management to award a new franchise to Canada.

Montreal has been lobbying to regain its place in MLB having lost its professional basketball team to Washington 18 years ago.

The Montreal Expos were the first MLB franchise located outside the United States and played in the National League (NL) East division from 1969 until 2004.

The franchise was relocated to Washington DC the following year and became the Washington Nationals, leaving Montreal without a team.

MLB added its 29th (Arizona Diamondbacks) and 30th (Tampa Bay Rays) teams before the 1998 season and has stayed with that number for more than two decades.

However, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has been leading the push towards a 32-team league, and Bautista believes the time is right to return to Montreal.

“I know it’s getting some consideration,” he told MLB odds site Betway.

“Hopefully it gets more once the league moves their focus from solving two situations at once with franchises like Tampa, to look at the expansion picture a little bit more,”

“Hopefully, Montreal is one of those markets that gets that attention.”

While there is currently no formal timetable for when MLB expansion will happen, several North American cities are vying to be considered.

They include Nashville, Portland and Oregon, while Austin, San Antonio, Charlotte and Orlando are also in the running.

However, many respected baseball pundits argue that Montreal’s previous history in professional baseball makes it ideal for MLB expansion.

With a metropolitan area population of around four million people, Montreal is currently the largest North American city without a baseball franchise.

The passionate fanbase lovingly recalls the exploits of Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Gary Carter, as well as stars such as Tim Raines, Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez.

Former Expos star Warren Cromartie set up the Montreal Baseball Project in 2012 driven by the dream of bringing baseball back to Montreal.

He played more than 1,00 games for the Expos between 1974 and 1983 and famously led them to the NL East Division championship in 1981.

Cromartie has kept close ties with Montreal since the end of his playing days through charitable work, involvement with local businesses and speaking engagements.

Give Cromartie’s knowledge of MLB and the city’s passion for the sport, Bautista believes Montreal is the ideal location for a new franchise to be established.

“There’s a few around the nation that definitely deserve their attention,” he added. “Nashville is intriguing, and I know that there are others that are trying to get a franchise awarded.

“Montreal have been there before and done it before, and apparently have some of the finances and the stadium resources in place.

“Canada loves their sports, and I think Montreal supported the Expos in a tremendous way. I would love to see them get it – it would be amazing, creating a new inter-Canadian rivalry with the Jays. That would be amazing to see.”

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