J.T. Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, predicted last November that the All-Star catcher wouldn’t still be employed by the Miami Marlins when 2019 Spring Training began. By the skin of his teeth, Berry was right, as the Philadelphia Phillies acquired his client on Feb. 7, five days before Marlins pitchers and catchers were due to report to Jupiter, Florida for Spring Training.
Berry made another bold declaration late in 2018 – whether the Marlins traded Realmuto or not, the Silver Slugger Award winner had no intention of signing an extension to remain with the Marlins past the 2020 season, when he can become eligible for free-agency.
Now that he’s no longer a Marlin, will Realmuto and Berry back off that stance?
The Phillies, according to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, “are expected to have those talks [extention talks] at some point” with Realmuto. Realmuto, who will turn 28 next month, went from playing for one of the least financially motivated clubs in the sport to one of the deepest-pocketed teams in baseball. He’ll now play 81 games a season at Citizens Bank Park, one of the league’s more hitter-friendly stadiums, as opposed to Marlins Park, which, well, isn’t.
There’s reason to think that Realmuto would at least be open to long-term contract discussions with the Phillies, something that wasn’t the case in Miami. Realmuto has a .245/.294/.384 career slash line at Marlins Park with a .678 OPS. On the road, Realmuto, has a .309/.356/.492 slash line with an .848 OPS. He’s hit .282 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 103 career at-bats at CBP. As I wrote in the latest edition of Phillies Nuggets, Realmuto, already the best offensive catcher in the sport, could actually get even better with his move out of Miami. So it would behoove the Phillies to try to sign him to a long-term deal this offseason, as opposed to next, when it may cost even more to secure him past the 2020 season.
Having already settled with the Marlins, Realmuto is set to make $5.9 million in 2019. That could be the first year of a new deal, or the Phillies could sign Realmuto to a new deal that begins in 2019, essentially voiding his arbitration agreement with the Marlins. The two highest-paid catchers in the sport – Buster Posey and Russell Martin – could offer interesting baselines for a new Realmuto deal. Martin is in the final year of a five-year deal that has paid him an average annual value of $16.4 million. Realmuto seems more likely to target an average annual salary in the range of Posey’s $19.875 million per season, though Martin’s five-year contract length is more realistic than the eight years that Posey signed for after winning the National League MVP in his age-26 season.
Realmuto, a former third-round pick, slashed .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs, 74 RBIs, an .825 OPS and a 4.8 fWAR in 2018, while playing for a Marlins team that went 63-98. In addition to moving to a more hitter-friendly ballpark, Realmuto figures to benefit from joining a lineup that will include Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, Odubel Herrera and potentially one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
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