The Philadelphia Phillies have another year of team control over catcher J.T. Realmuto in 2020, but general manager Matt Klentak isn’t playing hard to get – he hopes to sign the 28-year-old to a long-term deal.
In fact, in an offseason that will be full of priorities, Klentak says that the Phillies have inking Realmuto to a long-term deal near the top of their list.
“I think it’s fair to speculate that [signing Realmuto to a long-term deal] will be one of our offseason priorities this year,” Klentak told Josh Lewin and Jon Heyman on Big Time Baseball. “Whether we line up or not, remains to be seen. But I mentioned it earlier when you asked the question about team MVP – there’s really nothing on the field this guy can’t do. He has the best foot speed of any catcher in baseball…he doesn’t run like a catcher at all…he hustles all the time…he’s a really good fit for our city with his style of play…in the second-half half he’s been on fire at the plate – he was maybe more neutral in the first-half, but in the second half he’s carried us at times. And obviously the defense is probably the separator – not only the framing improvements that I’ve mentioned, but also his ability to gun down runners. It’s a joke how good this guy is behind the plate…how quickly he gets rid of the ball and how frequently he puts it right on the bag for our middle infielders to drop the tag down. We hope he’s a guy that will be wearing a Phillies uniform for a long, long time and that’s something we’ll address this offseason and hopefully we’ll be able to line up. We’ll see.”
Realmuto was the Phillies lone All-Star in 2019, though as Klentak said, his offensive production since the All-Star Break has far surpassed what he did in his first-half in red pinstripes. After slashing .273/.328/.438 with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .767 OPS in 308 at-bats before the midsummer classic, Realmuto has seen an offensive explosion since the All-Star Break, slashing .283/.329/.585 with 15 home runs, 40 RBIs and a .914 OPS in 212 at-bats.
That, of course, is on top of his elite defense behind the plate. Realmuto has thrown out a league-leading 37 would-be basestealers, has 10.7 framing runs and 13 defensive runs saved. Not only does Realmuto grade out as the best defensive catcher per FanGraphs, but the best defender overall at any position. Bryce Harper said earlier this month that it would be “an absolute joke” if Realmuto doesn’t win the National League Gold Glove Award for catcher.
It wasn’t cheap for the for the Phillies to acquire Realmuto in February, as they sent catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, and $250,000 of international bonus slot money to the division-rival Miami Marlins. Sanchez, the Phillies former No. 1 overall prospect, was excellent across two levels of the minors for the Marlins in 2019, going 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA in 114.0 innings that spanned 20 starts.
During his trip to Cleveland for the All-Star Game, Realmuto said that he “wouldn’t be opposed” to spending the rest of his career with the Phillies. Earlier this month at Phillies Nation, we took a deep dive into what a long-term deal for Realmuto could look like.
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