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Florida baseball is in the tank

Who has given up more present-day production: the Marlins or Rays?

Giancarlo Stanton was not just the Marlins’ 2017 MVP, but arguably the best player in the National League.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you, Tampa Bay Rays! They arguably surged past the Marlins in the 2018 MLB tank-a-thon on Tuesday night with yet another trade involving one of their starting-caliber players.

Few topics generate more conversation than the recent shift of smaller market teams toward salary dumps and other transactions that sabotage the present roster for future flexibility. With that top of mind, let’s find an objective way to compare exactly how much value the Rays and Marlins have given up this offseason.

Clearly, Giancarlo Stanton is the biggest name of the veteran bunch coming off his prodigious MVP 2017 season. Evan Longoria, like Stanton, was the face of his franchise.

The Marlins took the dramatic plunge from best to worst in terms of outfield bWAR over one winter by moving Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich in separate deals, which is a stunning “accomplishment” in itself. Both teams received many prospects in return, some who are rated among the best in the game.

What is seen as outrageous by many Rays fans and the MLB community, is that Tampa Bay’s cost-cutting seems so marginal in terms of absolute dollars and difficult to justify considering that they gutted their lineup to do so. At least the Marlins could point at the onerous Stanton contract as much-needed salary relief to fulfill the “Operation Wolverine” mandate.

These teams’ offseasons have hurt the public perception of the franchises in ways that are hard to quantify. Let’s focus instead on what is calculable.

I created a quick analysis by team, looking at each player’s 2018 contract, 2017 bWAR, and age. Four prominent players have been dealt from both the Marlins and Rays, which allows for a neat apples-to-apples comparison.

In the tables below, you can see each player’s individual numbers as well as cumulative bWAR and salary. The Rays shipped away 10.5 bWAR while the Marlins gave up a staggering 20.4 bWAR. However, the Fish shed $22.5 million more in salary for 2018. The average age of the players was slightly lower for the Marlins (27.5 vs. 28.75):

MLB assets traded during 2017-18 offseason, Rays

Player bWAR 2018 Salary (in M) Current Age
Player bWAR 2018 Salary (in M) Current Age
Odorizzi 0 6.3 27
Longoria 3.6 13.5 32
Souza 4.2 3.55 28
Dickerson 2.7 5.95 28
Sum 10.5 29.3

MLB assets traded during 2017-18 offseason, Marlins

Player bWAR 2018 Salary (in M) Current Age
Player bWAR 2018 Salary (in M) Current Age
Gordon 3.1 10.8 29
Ozuna 5.8 9 27
Yelich 3.9 7 26
Stanton 7.6 25 28
Sum 20.4 51.8

Using those data points, I derived an Average Value formula. It takes total bWAR per 2018 salary (in millions), divides that by average age, and then multiplies the final number by 100 to make it easier to digest.

Rays: (10.5/29.3)/28.75x100 = 1.246

Marlins: (20.4/51.8)/27.5x100 = 1.432

Average Value of the departed Marlins players was 1.432 vs. 1.246 for the Rays. Huge production from Stanton and Ozuna accounted for much of the difference, as did the relatively low value of Odorizzi. However, Stanton’s bloated salary makes the final comparison more even.

Therefore, the Marlins’ Average Value given up was 14.9 percent more than what the Rays gave up, which seems intuitively correct.

Again, this doesn’t consider the length of the contract or other intangibles—it just assigns a weighted value to what each team did to worsen themselves for 2018. Yes, the Marlins are still in the “lead”. It doesn’t account for what the Fish got in return, which looks to also favor Miami so far.

Florida baseball is tanking the upcoming season in an unprecedented way, although Wednesday’s signings of Cameron Maybin and Carlos Gomez make their rosters slightly more respectable. Both teams are understandably sharing the ire from pundits who prefer to see a league with more competitive balance.