The Miami Marlins’ fire sale has been a popular talking point this winter. After all, it’s not every offseason where you see a team trade their entire starting outfield (including the reigning league MVP), along with a starting infielder while a young catcher also stumps for a trade. But in recent weeks, the Tampa Bay Rays have followed in the footsteps of their cross-state rivals (if you want to consider them rivals, that is) by dumping a number of assets, including starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, outfielders Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza, and third baseman Evan Longoria, the best player in franchise history.
Looking at the rosters of the two Florida teams, it’s tough to see either of them contending in their respective divisions this season. But if the Marlins and Rays combined their rosters, could they field a team that would be competitive? Hmm…let’s see!
C: JT Realmuto, Marlins
Realmuto is a younger, better player than Rays backstop Wilson Ramos. Sure, if Realmuto gets traded, we might have a question here, but this was an easy decision, even though Ramos smashed 22 homers in 2016.
1B: Justin Bour, Marlins
The Rays’ apparent first baseman this season will be CJ Cron, acquired from the Angels over the weekend. Cron’s a decent enough player, but is already 28, has hit exactly 16 homers in trhee straight seasons, and has never topped a 114 wRC+. Bour’s 29 and has hit 23, 15, and 25 homers during his first three seasons in the majors, averaging a 122 wRC+ along the way. He’s just a better player.
2B: Brad Miller, Rays
So I had to get a little creative with the middle infield because neither one of these teams has a great shortstop (with apologies to Adeiny Hechavarria and JT Riddle). Miller stunk last year and might not be Tampa Bay’s regular second baseman this season, but he hit 30 homers in 2016 and is a worse defender at short than at second. Thus…he gets the second base nod.
SS: Starlin Castro, Marlins
And Castro gets the nod at shortstop. He’s been reborn with the Yankees, hitting 37 homers during his two seasons with the team and putting together a .300/.338/.454 line in 2017. He was the Cubs’ regular shortstop for years before he was dealt to New York, so let’s go ahead and shift him back. If you wanted to be a stickler and go with one of the teams’ regular shortstops, I’d probably pick Hechavarria and would favor Castro over Miller at second.
3B: Matt Duffy, Rays
If Matt Duffy is healthy, he’s a pretty good player, as his 12 homer, 12 steal, 113 wRC+ season in 2015 can attest to. However, he played in just 91 games in 2016, and missed all of 2017. There are plenty of question marks here. But the Marlins’ options at third base? Derek Dietrich is a fine player that is transitioning to the outfield for whatever reason this year. Martin Prado is questionable for the start of the year after playing poorly in just 37 games last year. Miguel Rojas is a decent bench player. So going with Duffy’s uncertainty wasn’t a difficult decision.
LF: Mallex Smith, Rays
Filling out the outfield corners was tough, because the Marlins don’t have much of a plan and the Rays don’t really have players locked in. The options for left field were Smith, Cameron Maybin, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez (who the Rays signed a day after trading Souza), and uh…Dietrich? Smith only played 81 games in the majors in 2017, and was competent enough to get another look in our combined team.
CF: Kevin Kiermaier, Rays
Slam dunk choice here as Kiermaier is one of the best defensive players in all of baseball and has also come into his own as a hitter. The Marlins’ projected center fielder is Maybin, a fine player who they just signed on Wednesday morning. C’mon.
RF: Lewis Brinson, Marlins
Brinson is a stud prospect that the Marlins got from the Brewers as the centerpiece of the Christian Yelich deal. He was awful in a 21 game stint in the majors last year with Milwaukee, but raked at every level of the minor leagues he played in. He has star potential, and will likely end up out-producing players like Maybin, Span, and Gomez this season, who have name value and not much else.
DH: Wilson Ramos, Rays
The only option the Marlins really have here is Scott Van Slyke, who hasn’t hit for three years after a strong 2014. Ramos, when healthy, is a pretty damn good hitter that shouldn’t catch more than one or two days a week in an ideal world. Cron is also an option here, but Ramos is the better bat that should be playing every day.
SP: Chris Archer, Rays
SP: Blake Snell, Rays
SP: Dan Straily, Marlins
SP: Jacob Faria, Rays
SP: Jose Urena, Marlins
The rotation was arguably the hardest part of this team to put together. Archer and Snell were, of course, locks at the top of the starting five. Straily and Faria can be swapped in the order (it really doesn’t matter), but hey, Straily was actually decent last year and would make the Rays’ rotation anyway. As for the fifth spot, it was a toss-up between Rays top prospect Brent Honeywell, injury-prone Ray Nathan Eovaldi, newly-acquired Ray Anthony Banda, or utterly underwhelming Marlin Jose Urena. I chose Urena because he made 28 starts last year. Whatever.
CL: Alex Colome, Rays
RP: Brad Ziegler, Marlins
RP: Kyle Barraclough, Marlins
RP: Sergio Romo, Rays
RP: Drew Steckenrider, Marlins
These two teams probably won’t have terrible bullpens this season. Colome is a legitimately great reliever, while Barraclough and Stechkenrider both showed plenty of promise in 2017. The final two choices, Ziegler and Romo, are veteran arms that had their struggles last season, but also finished the year with a half win each in value.
The combined projected ZiPS WAR of the players we chose is 30.9. Last season, the Marlins finished with a combined pitching/hitting fWAR (including bench players and relievers) of 31.9, while the Rays finished at 36.9. Including miscellaneous relievers and bench players, ZiPS has the 2018 Rays projected at 31.8 WAR, and the Marlins projected at 16.8 WAR.
So, would this combined team be…good? Hey, maybe they could finish around .500 if everything broke right for them. Given how awful the Marlins will likely be, I’m sure their ownership would take that. As for the Rays…well, I’m still not sure what their plan for 2018 and beyond is. But given the massive changes they’ve embarked upon this winter, finishing .500 would likely be viewed as something of a success.