Why are the Phillies willing to Roll Dice with Realmuto?

It is no secret that the Phillies and Catcher JT Realmuto have been unable to reach a long-term deal yet. From Realmuto talking about his desire to come back to Bryce Harper literally shouting to the heavens to “Sign Him,” it seems as if everyone is on the same page for what uniform he should be wearing next season. Despite this, the sides have been unable to hammer out the details and according to Realmuto’s agent they are not close. It is seeming more and more likely that JT will reach free agency and the Phillies are risking losing out on the best catcher in baseball because of this.

In a world without the coronavirus pandemic (which I’m sure most of us would love to be in) it is likely that Realmuto would have signed a long-term deal with the Phillies already. Prior to the shutdown, the 2 sides were firmly in negotiations and headed in the right direction. Negotiations were put on hold, along with the rest of the world, when the pandemic hit America and our lives in quarantine began. While the Phillies have re-engaged with talks since play has picked back up, it seems as if their tune has shifted a little bit.

Realmuto lived up to all expectations and had a dominant first season here after the Phillies traded top prospect Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, and another prospect to the Marlins for him last year. While the numbers are not exactly clear, JT seems to be targeting a deal somewhere in the range of 5-year $130 million. With Bryce Harper having already signed a 13 year $330 million deal as well as more recently Zack Wheeler agreeing to a 5 year $118 million deal, the Phillies already have a large amount of money tied up. It is not a matter of if Realmuto is worth the money but rather how much money the Phillies have to spend that is the bigger question.

That is where the impact of the virus comes into play. The economic landscape of the MLB and Phillies organization is in a much different place than it was when negotiations began with Realmuto. Everyone has heard more than enough about the money issues that will be brought on by this shortened season, but the fact of the matter is that the Phillies will not be bringing in the amount of money they expected to this season due to the shortened season and inability to sell tickets.

This issue is universal across all MLB teams, which is why the Phillies seem so confident allowing him to hit free agency. It is yet to be determined how much of an impact the finances will have on teams’ willingness to offer player’s contracts, but it is pretty clear that teams will not be spending money as freely. The Phillies are betting that no team is willing to reach Realmuto’s price tag and he will be back in red pinstripes next year. The issue with this is that it only takes one team to step up and pay a price higher than the Phillies are willing to. While both sides want JT to continue his career in Philly, money talks a whole lot louder than just words. In the end, it still seems most likely that Realmuto will end up with the Phillies next year, but it does not feel as if it is a certainty like it did when negotiations started.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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