J.T. Realmuto donned a Philadelphia Phillies “P” – well, sort of – during Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game. With the first-half of his first season with the Phillies in the books, the 28-year-old catcher feels like he’s found a long-term home.
Realmuto, who the Phillies acquired from the division-rival Miami Marlins in February, can become a free-agent after the 2020 season. He said Tuesday that he feels good enough about the culture with the Phillies that he would have interest in signing a long-term contract.
“Everything I’ve experienced in Philadelphia has been awesome, so I wouldn’t be opposed to spending the rest of my career there,” Realmuto told the collective media, including Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In 308 at-bats this season, Realmuto has slashed .273/.328/.438 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs. Many thought he had a chance to have an offensive explosion now that he was no longer playing his home games in Miami. That hasn’t happened, but FanGraphs still says he’s been the second most valuable qualified catcher in 2019, with a 2.8 fWAR.
Where Realmuto has exploded is behind the plate. While he’s dealt with a potentially alarming workload as a backstop – he’s played in 85 of 90 games – he’s on pace to potentially win his first career Gold Glove Award. After three consecutive years of posting negative defensive runs saved, Realmuto has 10 defensive runs saved in 2019. He’s used his elite pop-time to throw out 26 would-be basestealers this season, five more than he did all of 2018.
Given that he remains under team control for another season, the Phillies and Realmuto aren’t pressed to reach an agreement during the season. Still, the Phillies traded RHP Sixto Sanchez – their former No. 1 overall prospect – and catcher Jorge Alfaro as part of a package in one of the biggest trades in franchise history prior to the season to land Realmuto. Certainly, general manager Matt Klentak didn’t make that trade thinking Realmuto would only spend a couple seasons in red pinstripes.
Assuming Realmuto doesn’t play 150 games this season, his athletic body type makes you think he’ll age well into his 30s. That’s an important thing to factor in given that even if Realmuto signed a long-term deal this offseason, he would be starting said deal playing in his age-29 season.
Buster Posey signed an eight-year/$159 million deal ahead of his age-26 season with the San Francisco Giants in 2013. Realmuto isn’t 26 – and, in all likelihood, won’t be a multiple-time World Series Champion before he signs his new contract – but the $19.88 million average annual value of Posey’s deal probably isn’t a bad place to start in said negotiations.
An interesting dynamic could come into play in the coming weeks if the Phillies fall entirely out of the playoff race, which isn’t impossible given that they’ll host the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers in the first seven games after the All-Star Break. If that unfolds, the Phillies almost certainly will get calls on Realmuto from more serious contenders. It’s unclear if the Phillies would consider moving Realmuto if they were blown away by an offer – it’s also hard to imagine what a great offer for a star catcher at his peak would look like – but it’s a predicament that may present itself before the July 31 trade deadline.
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