Other their residence in the state of Florida, the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins have another big similarity between their two ballclubs- even the most beloved players to play for their teams get traded or allowed to leave as free agents. But the way they go about doing that could not be any more different, and the end results speak for themselves.
The Marlins go all in- and then they sell completely out. The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and lost 108 games a year later after letting Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Al Leiter, Jeff Conine, and Bobby Bonilla depart. They won the World Series in 2003 and then let Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett, Derrek Lee, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Dontrelle Willis, A.J. Burnett, and more leave South Beach. And after declaring that after receiving a new ballpark they would keep a higher payroll and consistently contend, the Marlins have traded Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and most recently Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle to the Blue Jays in the sham of a deal that took place on Tuesday night. The Marlins’ strategy has always been to go hard in the short-term, find success, and then sell off their assets for a profit- not on the field, but in their pockets- before begging for more support so they can begin the cycle anew.
As Rays fans, it has been very tough to watch players like Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and soon B.J. Upton play in other uniforms. But at the same time we realize that there’s a master plan going on. The Rays get the maximum value they can get from their premier players by keeping them as long as they can and then having players ready to step in to replace them when they leave. They had Desmond Jennings ready to replace Carl Crawford, Jeremy Hellickson seamlessly stepping in for Garza, Wade Davis replacing Kazmir, and whether through their current prospects or players they’ll acquire in trades, they’ll find a way to replace Upton. And that goes without saying that the Rays have gotten major values in trades and high draft picks from free agents leaving that have netted them top prospects that have been and continue to become crucial pieces of their major league team. The Rays don’t trade all their players at a sudden impulse- “oh, we’re not winning enough, so let’s trade all our expensive players“- they slowly, recalcitrantly trade away their players as they get more expensive and find a way to keep team in contention in the long-term.
The Rays are a small-market baseball team doing the best they possibly can to compete year after year. The Marlins are a group of businessman exploiting a city and a fan base, tempting them with short-term success and even reaching the pinnacle, winning the World Series, before making everyone other than them miserable. The Rays won’t always succeed, but when they get the right group of players together to make a World Series run, you can rest assured that they’re going to put every once of effort in to win at all and then turn that brief taste of immortality into something that can last. Jeffrey Loria is an art dealer- and he treats his players like pieces of artwork that he can put together for a beautiful gallery and then sell to the highest bidders. Stuart Sternberg, Matthew Silverman, and Andrew Friedman are also running a business aiming for profit- but they understand that the only way to play the game is to gameplan for long-term success and they wouldn’t give their fans anything less.