Rumors

Phillies work on catching depth as they sign Drew Butera, ‘check in’ on J.T. Realmuto



The Phillies have been active on the catcher’s market. (Matt Veasey/Phillies Nation)

In an offseason that has seen the Phillies being extremely active, the catching position has been notably absent in Philadelphia-related rumors. That appears to be changing.

Per MLB Network‘s Jon Heyman, the Phillies have signed catcher Drew Butera to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to Spring Training as MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki added. In the event that Butera does make the Phillies roster, he will receive a salary of $1.3 million.

In addition, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported that Butera has an incentives package worth up to $200,000, as well as a March 21 opt-out date. Butera now joins a Spring Training roster that includes catchers Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp, Rob Brantly, Deivi Grullon and Matt McBride.

Butera, 35, isn’t what some would call an offensive force. The nine-year veteran has a career average of just .201 to go along with 19 home runs, 82 walks and 111 RBIs in 497 games. Last year, Butera hit .190 with three home runs and 21 RBIs with the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals. As MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd noted, Butera has only once gotten to 200 plate appearances in a season.

As for his defense, Butera registered a .995 fielding percentage at catcher in 416.1 innings, committing only two errors. Butera had a caught stealing percentage of 17 percent, which was 11 percent below the league percentage. That 17 percent was only one percent below Andrew Knapp’s, however. Moreover, Butera and Knapp both carried similar offensive stat lines last year, meaning the backup catching gig is more than up for grabs.

Our Tim Kelly recently discussed the Phillies absence from the catcher market. He gave a number of possible options for the backup role, which included Martin Maldonado, Nick Hundley and Matt Wieters. Butera is certainly a step down from those players, and one could wonder whether he is even an upgrade over Knapp, save for the fact Butera has plenty more experience in the majors.

Butera isn’t the only catcher news, though. The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Phillies had ‘checked in’ with the Miami Marlins regarding catcher J.T. Realmuto. As Rosenthal added, many teams are constantly monitoring available top players, and the Phillies once again reaching out to Miami had to do with Realmuto still being on the market.

The trade rumors for the star catcher have been one of the biggest storylines of the offseason. As of last week, MLB.com‘s Joe Frisaro had reported that the Realmuto trade market was in ‘advanced stages,’ with the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers all in the hunt.

Realmuto, 27, is arguably the best catcher in the majors right now. Last season, he hit .277 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs in 125 games, and registered a 4.3 bWAR. Realmuto was also named to the All-Star Game and was a Silver Slugger Award recipient. As for his defense, Realmuto had a .992 fielding percentage (951.0 innings played) and a caught stealing percentage of 38 percent, which was fourth-best in the National League.

Realmuto is set to have a salary of just $5.9 million in 2019, and wouldn’t be eligible for free agency until 2021, making him all the more valuable as a commodity. That means the price for him would likely cost a top prospect.

Realmuto would be a major upgrade over Alfaro, who is currently the presumed starter. Whether or not the Phillies seriously pursue Realmuto could depend on the situations of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Could the Phillies decide to go all-in if they sign one of the free agent superstars? It remains to be seen, but the Phillies will likely continue to watch Realmuto’s market.

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