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Realmuto, Gregorius will become free agents after 2020 season, regardless of length

J.T. Realmuto can become a free agent after the 2020 season. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Whether the 2020 MLB season is 162 games long, 81 games long or zero games long, J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius will become free agents this upcoming offseason.

MLB and MLBPA reached a deal Thursday evening that covers a variety of topics with the 2020 season currently on hold. As ESPN‘s Jeff Passan noted, the most noteworthy part of the deal is that all players who were eligible to become free agents after the 2020 season will still be, regardless of how long the 2020 season ultimately ends up being.

Realmuto, Gregorius, Jake Arrieta, Jose Alvarez and Jay Bruce could all become free agents next offseason.

Realmuto – who is coming off of one of the greatest seasons a Phillies catcher has ever had – is obviously priority No. 1 for the team. Though both sides have consistently expressed interest in reaching a long-term deal, there’s no indication they’ve come especially close to completing one. Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this month that the five-year/$130 million extension that Paul Goldschmidt signed with the St. Louis Cardinals before the 2019 season is in the ballpark of what type of deal Realmuto is seeking.

In his first season with the Phillies, Realmuto was the team’s lone All-Star, and ended up winning both a Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger Award. While the 29-year-old may very well want to remain with the Phillies long-term, the Phillies seemingly have more to lose if Realmuto leaves this offseason. Realmuto is going to be an excellent player wherever he’s at. The Phillies gave up a package to land Realmuto from the division-rival Miami Marlins that included No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez. A year ago, Realmuto was the best player on the team. It would be a disaster if the Phillies weren’t able to retain his services.

Meanwhile, Didi Gregorius signed a one-year/$14 million deal with the Phillies this past offseason after an underwhelming return from Tommy John surgery a year ago with the New York Yankees. Between 2016 and 2018, Gregorius graded out as the seventh best offensive shortstop in baseball. Now 30, Gregorius’ chance to have a bounce-back season likely will come in less than 162 regular season games, which could be a good or bad thing depending how he performs in a smaller sample size.

With Jean Segura and Scott Kingery both under contract for the foreseeable future – and Alec Bohm on the cusp of the major leagues – it’s unclear if the Phillies would be interested in inking Gregorius to a long-term deal if he impresses in 2020. It’s possible that if he has a bounce-back season on a one-year deal, he prices his way out of a range that the Phillies are comfortable approaching, like what happened with Josh Donaldson after he revitalized his career with the Atlanta Braves last season.

Arrieta has a $20 million club option for 2021 in his contract. If the Phillies decline that – which seems likely – Arrieta will become a free agent after this season. The 34-year-old is looking for a bounce-back season after two consecutive injury-riddled seasons.

Realmuto, Gregorius and Arrieta could join a free-agent class that may include Mookie Betts, George Springer, Marcus Semien, DJ LeMahieu, Justin Turner, James Paxton and Marcus Stroman.

Meanwhile, all other players will move a year closer to free agency. Whether the Phillies play 100 games or zero games in 2020, this will count as year two of Bryce Harper’s 13-year/$330 million deal. No matter how this season unfolds, Rhys Hoskins will become eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2021.


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