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Phillies still hope to reach long-term deal with J.T. Realmuto before season


J.T. Realmuto had a tremendous 2019 behind the plate. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Phillies and J.T. Realmuto will have their arbitration hearing next week, per John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Will there be enough time after the hearing to hammer out a long-term deal to keep Realmuto in pinstripes before the regular season begins?

General manager Matt Klentak sure hopes so.

“I try not to operate with hard deadlines or operate in absolutes, but yes it would be nice to have some sort of resolution prior to Opening Day just so it’s not a distraction, mostly to the player, but even to us during the season,” Klentak said to the collective media Thursday. “So that would be ideal, but by no means do I view that as a hard cap.”

Klentak went on to say that the while the Phillies hope to reach a long-term deal with Realmuto before the season begins in Miami on March 26, they’ll first need a resolution on Realmuto’s arbitration case.

“I still feel very strongly that I would like to do that [sign Realmuto to a long-term deal] – everyone in our organization does. J.T. is a really good player. I say that, I also would have hoped we would have settled his arbitration case by now, and that didn’t happen. Frankly, I hoped that if we had settled his arbitration case we would already be at the bargaining table on his extension talks, but as you know we have to do one before the other. So we have to wait before one before we can talk about the other. So once we have a resolution to the one-year number, we’ll come to the table and see if we can find common ground on a long-term deal. I hope that we can, and if we can’t, we could always continue those talks into the season and even into free agency if we have to.”

Technically, the Phillies don’t need to wait until after Realmuto’s arbitration case to reach a long-term deal with him. A year ago, the Phillies agreed to a four-year/$45 million deal with Aaron Nola the day before his arbitration hearing was scheduled. There’s no rule preventing them from doing that in this case.

The difference is that a year ago, the Phillies weren’t pressed up against the luxury tax threshold, as they are now. Even if Realmuto wins his arbitration case and earns $12.4 million in 2020, the Phillies will still be a few million under the $208 million luxury tax treshold. If the Phillies win the case, Realmuto will earn $10 million and leave the Phillies with an additional $2.4 million under the threshold.

The expectation is that a long-term deal with Realmuto will pay him $20 million or more annually, which would put the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold. President Andy MacPhail said Friday that he hopes the Phillies end up exceeding the luxury tax threshold at some point in 2020, but presumably because they made another addition to their current roster. If the Phillies wait until next season for Realmuto’s salary to really explode, they’ll have the relief of the $31 million that Jake Arrieta and David Robertson are making in 2020 coming off the books.

There’s no indication that there will be any hurt feelings regardless of how Realmuto’s arbitration case ultimately plays out this month. He said last month that he didn’t view the case as a battle between him and the Phillies, but him trying to raise the baseline for how catches are compensated.

Last February, the Phillies acquired Realmuto in one of the biggest trades in franchise history, sending a package headlined by No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez to the division-rival Miami Marlins. Realmuto turned in an excellent first season with the Phillies, winning both the National League Silver Slugger Award at catcher for the second consecutive season and winning his first career Gold Glove Award.

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