For some inexplicable, unfathomable, bizarre reason or another, the Phillies STILL have yet to extend (best) catcher (in baseball) J.T Realmuto. Despite leading all qualifying catchers (3.1 PA/team game played) in home runs (11) and RBIs (32), as well as recording the second-most hits (46), Realmuto still has not accomplished enough to persuade the Phillies management to commit, apparently.
When asked to discuss the blockbuster swap that brought Realmuto to Philly in exchange for pitching phenom and former top Phillies prospect Sixto Sanchez, Phillies owner John Middleton made a few eyebrow-raising remarks. Instead of decisively and adamantly assuring everyone that the team is focused on retaining one of their foundational pieces, Middleton instead rambled about the train of thought that went into the deal when asked if the transaction bred any regret.
“That’s an interesting question, because the fact of the matter is at the time it was being considered, my position was I’d be willing to trade Sixto, as long as you extend J.T.,” Middleton said Saturday evening. “And if you don’t extend J.T., I wouldn’t trade Sixto because we weren’t at the point in the development of the team where the benefits we were getting matched what we were giving up.”
This is an extremely odd statement to make, especially given the current state of the Phillies. Here, Middleton states that the Realmuto deal was seemingly contingent upon an extension for the all-star catcher. Obviously, though, that deal has yet to and may never materialize. So, if the trade was made with the expectation of extending Realmuto, where does that leave us now that he is an impending free-agent?
Another thing that rubs me the wrong way about this quote is how tone-deaf it is to the apparent, immediate big-league success Sixto Sanchez is experiencing with the Marlins. Eighteen short months after shipping the talented right-hander to Miami, the Phillies watched from their couches as Sanchez threw five scoreless innings to help the Marlins clinch their first playoff victory since 2003. Oof.
Sanchez has been every bit as advertised and as a result the incentive for the Phillies to re-sign Realmuto, though it was already great, has increased exponentially. This is why Middleton spouting out a game of ‘What-If’ to the press is so asinine and frustrating.
I understand that Middleton is a bit leery of overcommitment to re-signing Realmuto, in fear of losing leverage and/or driving up the contract price, but acting as if his departure wouldn’t be a tremendous blow to the team is recklessly dangerous. Not only is it a poor attempt at a power flex, but one would have to think that their unwillingness to empty the vault has to be a bit insulting to Realmuto at this point.
Since joining the Phillies, the standout catcher has done nothing but excel and perform at a high-level, both offensively and defensively, yet the Phils are treating him as though he is some expendable piece that they will easily replace.
To make matters worse, in the same presser, Middleton also seemed to express that he believes the Phillies traded for Realmuto prematurely. The polarizing front office figure compared the Realmuto swap to that of the infamous Cliff Lee trade of 2009.
“…At that point when we traded for J.T., we weren’t the defending World Series Champions, we were trying to get back to the playoffs,” Middleton continued. “The point I made was we need J.T. now, but we really need J.T. in three, four, five, six years from
now. And if all we get for him is two years, that’s not the same as two years of Cliff Lee
in 2009. And so, that was my position. He’s a great player, but we gave up a great
player. To me, we just needed to hold fast and be firm on not giving up Sixto for just two years at that moment in our time. We were a little early in the development to make that kind of a play.”
The last two lines speak volumes and even seem to slight ex-general manager Matt Klentak, who Middleton stupidly strangely decided to retain on the staff. There is a bit of optimism in this excerpt, however, as Middleton suggests that the Phillies may need Realmuto more moving forward than they have the last two years.
Man, if only there was a way for Middleton to ensure the Phillies retain the MVP-caliber player they need so bad- oh wait, he totally could by just signing Realmuto! I wonder what his reasons are for not doing so already because his presser responses certainly didn’t provide any clarity.
Hopefully, Middleton is just (poorly) playing a game of free-agency cat-and-mouse in hopes of retaining Realmuto on a non-inflated price. Pessimistically speaking, though, we may be in store for more heartache this winter.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire