Inexplicably, the Phillies have been reluctant to extend superstar catcher J.T Realmuto since he arrived in Philly. Despite him clearly being the best player at his position and already registering an all-star campaign with the Phils, the team has been hesitant to ink the talented backstop to a long-term deal.
A puzzling, frustrating strategy, their refusal to act is even more bizarre at the root than it is on the surface. Usually, when a team is afforded a chance to lock up and roster a player who is the best at their position, they take it. When said team traded, say, their top prospect and budding star pitcher to a division rival to acquire said player, they DEFINITELY take that chance.
Oddly, the Phillies don’t seem to agree with that methodology or perception. To be a struggling team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in nearly a decade, the Phils, and particularly team owner John Middleton, seems abnormally comfortable with the potential departure of Realmuto.
I understand the importance of leverage in negotiating contracts and not wanting to overcommit to a player, thus driving the price up. However, the way the Phillies front office has handled the Realmuto contract talks thus far is an inexcusable far cry from savvy business tactics.
All winter long, Middleton and the front office have cried poor and painted COVID-related financial loss as a cause for concern in a potential Realmuto deal.
The claim is as ridiculous as it is untruthful. Like virtually every other team, the Phils have taken a hit financially due to lack of ticket and game sales, but nowhere near the exaggerated amounts that Middleton spouted out in November.
Again, this may just be a (poor) attempt at trying to temper Realmuto’s contract expectations, but the fabricated claims probably aren’t sitting well with their star catcher, who patiently awaits the contract he rightfully deserves.
And, just so we’re absolutely clear, he deserves EVERY penny of what is coming his way. Here is how Realmuto ranks amongst all qualified catchers in offensive and defensive wRAA since 2018:
A defensive and offensive juggernaut at his position, Realmuto is head and shoulders above the competition at catcher and will make his next employer, whomever that may be, very happy. A baseball manager’s dream, Realmuto excels in all phases of the game and will be well worth the price, no matter the ultimate cost.
Given his production and track record, one would have to imagine Realmuto isn’t too pleased with having to practically beg for his compensation.
The Phillies owner citing to be low on funds also likely won’t go over well with the other talented, free-agent players on the market. With so much economic uncertainty surrounding the game and country as a whole, players will be looking to cash-in and help secure their families this offseason.
With Middleton pinching his pennies as hard as he can, though, the Phillies are unlikely to attract the free-agent help they so desperately need. A massive need that only stands to grow should their nonchalant attitude towards Realmuto lead to his departure.
In this sport, you can’t keep everyone, I get that. What the Phillies need to realize, though, is that in the case of Realmuto, there are no viable replacement options. There is no logical or beneficial pivot. If he leaves, the dagger of mediocrity will be twisted further into the heart of the organization. Like most of the Philly faithful out there, my hope is that this pain is avoided and the Phillies come to their senses and extend him. As the days pass and the New Year approaches, though, my hope dwindles more and more.
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