What is a word for comparing two things but suggesting one is better than the other?
John verbally compares a and b but hints that a is superior.
With what word would I replace compares so I can get rid of the second clause?
Consider extol (or extoll)
to praise highly; laud
While extol does not require a comparison, it suggests an extensive praising that usually includes a detailed exposition of the value of the praised object.
He extolled a over b.
The suggestion is that he waxed eloquent as to why a is better than b. A comparison may be implied.
I'm not aware of a word that means exactly what you're looking for. Contrasting focuses on the differences between options A and B, and is often used when one is preferable to the other and you're trying to highlight why. But it's not always so - you can contrast 'night' and 'day' without implying one is better than the other.