Rays Tales: Which Team Would You Rather Be, Marlins Or Rays?

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The Rays head south Sunday afternoon for the first three games of the annual Citrus Series matchup against the Marlins, with the return visit to the Trop right after the All-Star break.

The teams could save on travel costs and just meet in Fort Myers to play given the lack of juice the supposed — and somewhat forced — rivalry has among fans.

But the series does allow the chance to compare and contrast Florida's flailing franchises, both celebrating anniversary seasons.

And to ask this question:

Who would you rather be, the Marlins or the Rays?

There's lots of data that can be inputted, from the teams on the field now, to the prospects in the minors, to the stadium situations, to the markets, and more. As one baseball person we asked put it, "I'd rather be the Rays in the Marlins stadium."

Let's take a look:

Current teams

The Rays have had more success (41-41 record to Marlins' 34-50) playing in a tougher division, much better pitching and offensive numbers (plus-1 run differential vs. minus-110) and a head start on the rebuild with more promising young players in place. One talent evaluator we asked said he would take Marlins C J.T. Realmuto, 1B Justin Bour and 2B Starlin Castro, and the Rays at the other positions. The Rays are projected by fangraphs.com to finish 78-85, the Marlins 65-97.

Rather be: Rays

Top management

The Marlins have the star power with CEO Derek Jeter, one of the best who ever played the game. The Rays have GM Erik Neander heading a group that never played, relying on a data-driven approach and outside-the-box thinking. Jeter has had some missteps in his first year and, working with holdover exec Michael Hill, is still learning the business of building a team that can have and sustain success. Supporters believe with time and the right hires he will be a long-term success since he is Derek Jeter. The Rays haven't won under the current administration amid constant roster churn but seem committed to their rebuild plan, are creative in seeking competitive edges, and have the benefit of infrastructure and continuity, which puts them ahead for now.

Rather be: Rays

Stadium

One of the most interesting points to ponder. Would you rather have what the Marlins have, a relatively new (2012), modern, comfortable, retractable-roof stadium in what is generally considered the wrong place, an unappealing and hard-to-get-to site near downtown Miami? Or the Rays' combo of the current Trop and the uncertainty going forward — the possibility of a new, even more modernly designed stadium getting built in Ybor City (with the fair question if it appreciably improves revenues and attendance), the potential of a viable (hint: waterfront) alternative in St. Petersburg, the drama of talk of relocating to Montreal, Nashville or elsewhere becoming more real?

Rather be: Marlins

Farm systems/future

There is no one best way to judge this, so we'll look at a couple.

• Number of high-end prospects: Since Baseball America on Friday just updated its top 100, we'll go with that. Seven Rays made the list, with five in the top 41: No. 11 SS Willy Adames, No. 18 RHP Brent Honeywell (even with Tommy John surgery), No. 26 LHP/1B Brendan McKay, No. 32 OF Jesus Sanchez, No. 41 1B Jake Bauers. Also, No. 83 SS Wander Franco and No. 92 C Ronaldo Hernandez. The Marlins had just three, and none higher than RHP Sandy Alcantara at No. 73. Also, No. 89 RHP Jorge Guzman and No. 94 RHP Nick Neidert.

• Overall depth of the farm systems: In January organizational rankings (before offseason trades were made), ESPN's Keith Law had the Rays seventh overall and the Marlins 28th. Baseball America had a smaller gap with the Rays fifth and the Marlins 19th. MILB.com had the Rays fourth and the Marlins 16th.

• Scouts takes: A quick sampling of a half-dozen leaned heavily toward the Rays having more advanced prospects throughout the system, though with a nod to the Marlins' lower-level pitching.

Rather be: Rays

History

Marlins: 1,903-2,161 record (.468) in 26 seasons; 2 playoff appearances, 2 World Series championships

Rays: 1,540-1,779 (.464) in 21 seasons; 4 playoff appearances, 2 AL East titles, 1 World Series loss

Rather be: Marlins

Manager/coaches

Miami's Don Mattingly has the better nickname (Donnie Baseball), playing resume (six-time All-Star, 1985 AL MVP) and managerial success, three playoff appearances with the Dodgers before coming in 2016 to the Marlins, where he's 188-217 (.464). Coaches include former Marlins/Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (3B), five-time All-Star Tim Wallach (bench), longtime big-leaguer Mike Pagliarulo (hitting).

Kevin Cash was a backup during parts of eight big-league seasons, with two years of coaching and no managing experience when the Rays hired him in 2015, going 267-299 (.472). Rocco Baldelli (field coordinator) is the most accomplished player among a coaching staff built to work with a young team; Chad Mottola (hitting) was drafted fifth overall in 1992, one ahead of a guy named Derek Jeter.

Rather be: Rays

Finances

Both teams seem pretty much a mess. Bruce Sherman bought the Marlins last year for a hefty $1.2 billion amid immediate reports of being underfunded. In their 13th season under Stuart Sternberg's stewardship, Rays officials claim regularly to be losing money. Both rank near the bottom in payrolls: Marlins 25th at $85.8 million per USA Today, Rays 29th at $69.6 million. The Rays are last in the AL in attendance, averaging 14,542, the Marlins a majors-worst 9,973, with six crowds under 6,000. Both are counting heavily on a boost from new TV deals. Forbes estimated the Marlins value at $1 billion, just ahead of the bottom-ranked Rays at $900 million.

Rather be: … Yankees?

Winter clearance sales

Both teams spent the offseason on rebuilding projects, working to get younger and cheaper by dumping high-salaried veterans, and are likely to be active leading up to the July 31 deadline.

For the Marlins, that included trading:

INF Dee Gordon (to Mariners)

OF Marcell Ozuna (Cardinals)

OF Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees)

OF Christian Yelich (Brewers)

Others they could/would like to move, with 2018 salary: INF Martin Prado, $13.5M; 2B Starlin Castro, $10M; LHP Wei-Yin Chen, $10M; RHP Brad Ziegler, $9M; RHP Dan Straily, $3.37M; 1B Justin Bour, $3.4M; C J.T. Realmuto, $2.9M.

For the Rays:

OF Corey Dickerson (Pirates)

3B Evan Longoria (Giants)

RHP Jake Odorizzi (Twins)

OF Steven Souza Jr. (D'backs)

Others they could/would like to move: C Wilson Ramos, $10.5M; RHP Chris Archer, $6.25M; SS Adeiny Hechavarria, $5.9M; OF Carlos Gomez, $4M; RHP Sergio Romo, $2.5M.

Rather be: Rays

Short stops

• It's understandable that without any trade options (or at least until the Orioles' Manny Machado is dealt somewhere), the Rays don't want to just release SS Adeiny Hechavarria and eat his remaining $2.98 million. But isn't paying to keep him around and blocking the development of rookie SS Willy Adames costing them something, too?

• Rays players often labor in relative anonymity, so it's good to see C Wilson Ramos and LHP Blake Snell getting attention, and likely All-Star rewards, for their efforts.

Rays rumblings

C Wilson Ramos going back to the Nationals seems like such an obvious fit that it would seem only one side or the other being greedy would keep it from happening. … At some point, do the Rays have to wonder about the high number of players sidelined with muscle pulls and strains? … Somewhat logically, the Rays are mixing in their opener strategy at their top three minor-league affiliates as well. … Remember the cool scene in Anaheim with Giants WR Odell Beckham taking BP in a Rays jersey? That wasn't a committed relationship as he did so Friday in Yankees gear? … Salty move by the Rays social media crew, tweeting the Yankees "a bill" for a Trop speaker to replace the one hit by Clint Frazier's fly ball last Sunday, that, in case you hadn't heard the fan/media whining, otherwise might have been a home run. … Without knowing exactly what Chris Bosio said that led to his firing as Tigers pitching coach, he always has been, going back to his Devil Rays days, one to speak candidly. … RHP Jose De Leon, on the DL after Tommy John surgery, bought the dominoes table for the Rays clubhouse that has been getting heavy use. … After his hot start, former Ray Corey Dickerson had no homers and one walk in 29 games through Friday.

Source : http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/rays/2018/06/30/rays-tales-which-team-would-you-rather-be-marlins-or-rays/

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