The Phillies have been playing with fire by not locking up JT Realmuto to a long-term deal at this point in time. The team made waves when he came over to the organization in a trade with the Marlins for Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart, Jorge Alfaro, and international bonus slot money prior to last season. But in this trade, Realmuto came without a long-term contract attached to his name. As it sits right now, JT will play out the remainder of his contract with this shortened 60 game season, and is set to enter free agency at the conclusion of this. The Phillies need to step up and get a deal done before he has a chance to reach free agency or they will risk losing the best catcher in baseball who they already gave up so much to get.
There is no doubt that the price will be steep. Whether it is with the Phillies or someone else, Realmuto will be playing under a deal upwards of $23 million per year next year, likely making him the highest-paid catcher of all time. This record of $23 million per year was held by Joe Mauer who retired 2 years ago. As it stands, Buster Posey is the highest-paid catcher currently playing, with a contract of just over $22 million per season. Realmuto’s camp is well aware of the $23.6 million average salary that the Phillies recently gave to Zach Wheeler as well as the $25.3 million per year that goes toward Bryce Harper. This is the ballpark that Realmuto will be expecting to see a deal in if the two sides are to come to an agreement.
When the Phillies pulled the trigger on the trade to bring in JT, they gave up a lot. Sixto Sanchez was the #1 pitching prospect in their farm system at just 20 years old, and draws comparisons to Pedro Martinez on the mound. Jorge Alfaro was inconsistent in his time here. His high strikeout rate and tendency to allow pass balls did not make him too hard to let leave, but nonetheless he had a solid season with the Marlins this year. Will Steward is still developing and is not by any means MLB ready yet, but he was still looked at as a decent prospect after going 8-1 with the Blueclaws in single-A.
Despite the high price tag they gave up, it is tough to say that JT did not live up to expectations Realmuto is a legitimate 5-tool catcher which is almost unheard of. He has a laser of an arm paired with the quickest time to his feet in baseball that makes it a difficult task for any base-runner to sneak a free base. He is top-tier at blocking balls in the dirt and does a great job handling the pitchers. Last year Realmuto hit .275 and knocking in a career-high 25 HRs and 83 RBI’s. As a result of his play last year he earned a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, was an all-star, and even placed 14th in NL MVP voting.
If the Phillies were to lose out on Realmuto, there would be a steep dropoff in whoever would take over as catcher. Andrew Knapp is the obvious answer and he is a tough guy to get excited about. In the 3 seasons he has spent in the majors, Knapp hit around .200 each year and is not a guy who is expected to improve much on this. Deivy Grullon is the highest-rated catching prospect in the minors, but his defense is not nearly MLB quality and he is by no means ready to step into a starting role.
The feeling inside the organization seems to be that they want JT back. Bryce Harper has posted on instagram his support of the Phillies getting the deal done “the sooner the better,” and recently took grounders with Realmuto proudly across the shirt on his back. The Phillies are going to have to dig pretty deep into their pockets to make the deal happen, but it should be a price tag that they are willing to pay.
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