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Playoffs and debate rage on: Andrew Friedman or Joe Maddon?

OT_334501_BORC_rays (02/15/11) (Port Charlotte, FL) VP Andrew Friedman, left, and Manager Joe Maddon, right answer questions during a press conference at the Rays Port Charlotte complex Tuesday afternoon.    [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
OT_334501_BORC_rays (02/15/11) (Port Charlotte, FL) VP Andrew Friedman, left, and Manager Joe Maddon, right answer questions during a press conference at the Rays Port Charlotte complex Tuesday afternoon. [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
Published Oct. 15, 2017

The Dodgers and Cubs winning their way in the National League Championship Series for a second straight year rekindles the question: Who was the bigger loss for the Rays — Andrew Friedman or Joe Maddon?

Friedman, as the head of baseball operations, led the massive reconstruction from perennial losing Devil Rays to contending Rays, installing a more sabermetrical and analytical approach along with hiring Maddon, before leaving after the 2014 season to take over the Dodgers.

And Maddon, as the manager, implemented and augmented the new philosophies while improving the clubhouse culture and making unconventional but often successful moves before leaving right after (and because of) Friedman to take over the Cubs.

And, even with another year — another year of the Rays missing the playoffs without them — I'm still not sure I know the answer.

From the inside out, Friedman should be missed more since he had the bigger role with more input in shaping the direction and the roster. But there also should have been less of a transition since he was replaced by his boss (Matt Silverman) and top assistants (Chaim Bloom, Erik Neander), who all were involved directly in the success of making the playoffs four times from 2008-13.

The struggles since have raised questions around the game if Friedman saw the end of the run coming, or if there was an impact from changes the Rays made, going with more of a group approach than single-voice leader­ship, and even in not hiring an experienced baseball "guy," such as Friedman had initially in Gerry Hunsicker.

From the outside in, Maddon's absence seems larger because replacement Kevin Cash has not had anywhere near the success, failing to win more than 80 games in his three seasons (228-258, .469), nor had the presence and spotlight Maddon enjoyed. But there's also a fair question if Cash has had teams — whether due to construction, injuries and/or performance — good enough to win. (Another way to look at it: Would Maddon have gotten these clubs to the playoffs?)

As Maddon takes the Cubs to a third straight NLCS there is naturally chatter if the Rays made the right call in replacing him with Cash, who had no previous experience. But as Cash heads into the fourth season of a five-year deal (plus two options) his bosses, from principal owner Stuart Sternberg on down, continue to rave about his work.

The bigger loss? I'll take the easy way out again, and say the Rays.

Time to Arb up

The typically accurate mlbtraderumors.com arbitration projections are out, most notably with a hefty hike for OF/DH Corey Dickerson, from $3,025,000 to $6.4 million, and first-year eligible closer Alex Colome, from $547,900 to $5.5 million, and only a modest increase for SS Adeiny Hechavarria, from $4,350,000 to $5 million. The Rays obviously do their own extensive research, which all factors into decisions on who to keep, trade and/or nontender from their 13 eligibles, third most in the majors, especially with the payroll being reduced.

Other projections, with 2017 salaries: RHP Jake Odorizzi, $6.5 million ($4,100,000); INF Brad Miller, $4.4 million ($3,575,000); OF Steven Souza Jr., $3.6 million ($546,700); LHP Dan Jennings, $2.5 million ($1,400,000); RHP Brad Boxberger, $1.9 million ($1,600,000), LHP Xavier Cedeno, $1.4 million ($1,300,000); C Jesus Sucre, $1.3 million ($630,000); RHP Chase Whitley, $1 million ($535,000); RHP Shawn Tolleson, $1 million ($1,000,000); INF Matt Duffy, $900,000 ($545,300).

RAYS RUMBLINGS: A list of 5-10 candidates is being compiled for the open third base and assistant hitting coach positions, with interviews soon to follow. Also planned, further talk on reshaping the titles/responsibilities on Cash's staff. … Among potential candidates: Tim Bogar, Dave Clark, Juan Samuel and, from Triple A, Ozzie Timmons. … Also, maybe free-to-look Red Sox 3B coach Brian Butterfield, a former Eckerd assistant? … Also to be hired is a new Triple-A pitching coach. … Newly promoted bench coach Charlie Montoyo was rumored as a candidate for several managerial openings but has yet to interview. … Curious to see if former Rays/now-Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez gets a call. … Former Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey has gotten calls from several teams already, and he might be wise to wait and see what other opportunities present. … Looks like a Feb. 14 first spring workout in Port Charlotte, a Feb. 23 split-squad exhibition opener (vs. Pirates, at Orioles) and a March 27 finale at the Trop. … The cost of the qualifying offer gamble with free-agent-to-be RHP Alex Cobb has been set by MLB at $17.4 million, which seems like a safe bet for the Rays to get compensation that he declines in pursuit of a multiyear deal, maybe like Ian Kennedy's five-year, $70 million pact with the Royals. … Free agent 1B Logan Morrison is the Rays finalist for the Hank Aaron Award given to the top offensive performer in each league. … The Rays got to keep RHP Kevin Gadea, the Rule 5 pick who was hurt in spring training, when Seattle passed on taking him back and he cleared waivers, meaning he could be outrighted to the minors with no restrictions, likely headed to Class A. … Though no reason was ever given why Oregon State RHP Drew Rasmussen wasn't signed after being drafted 31st overall, he did just have a second Tommy John elbow surgery. … Former Fox Sports Sun in-game reporter Emily Austen shares emotional details over her June 2016 firing, renewed faith and new career path on a sportsspectrum.com podcast. … Two ex-Rays, RHP Mickey Callaway and INF Jorge Velandia, are among candidates for the Phillies manager's job.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com.