ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays have been given permission by Major League Baseball to explore splitting future seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal.

Published reports said the plan couldn't take effect until approval from several parties, including the MLB players union.

Montreal has been without a baseball team since the end of the 2004 season, when the Expos moved to Washington.

The Rays, despite winning 90 games last season and standing in second place in the AL East, continue to rank at the bottom of the league in attendance. They joined MLB in 1998 and have played at Tropicana Field since.

In a statement released on the team's Twitter account, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said: "My priority remains the same, I am committed to keeping baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come. I believe this concept is worthy of serious exploration."

Mayor Rick Kriseman expressed frustation with the situation in an afternoon news conference.

"I'm tired of the games being played to try and get a stadium built," he said.

"I've done more to try and keep (the Rays) in the region than anyone has," Kriseman said, adding he is ready and willing to sit down with team officials and negotiate.

"It's hard to ask fans and businesses to be all in when the team hasn't fully committed to us. Make a decision," Kriseman said.

It wasn't immediately clear how the plan would work. Some reports stated that the team could play half the season in each city. It's not clear how playoff games would be handled.

The stadium saga for the franchise took a big setback in January when the Rays announced they were "not close" to acting on their plans for an Ybor City stadium.

In the months that followed, there have been whispers about Hillsborough County jumping back in the stadium game and developers prepping for a revamped Tropicana Field site.

The stadium was reconfigured before this season, with the upper deck closed off.

The Rays rank 29th in MLB attendance this season, averaging 14,545 fans per game.