Last February, Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak went out and got the best catcher in baseball from the Miami Marlins, acquiring J.T. Realmuto.
The Phillies not only added their third major offensive piece of that off-season in Realmuto (with Bryce Harper still to come), but they also added a veteran catcher behind the plate who could help a rather young pitching staff reach the next level.
While the pitching staff continued to work through growing pains, Realmuto put up major numbers in his first season with the Phillies. Realmuto threw out 35 would-be basestealers, the most in the majors, which helped him to win his first National League Gold Glove Award. He hit .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs and 36 doubles and won the National League Silver Slugger Award for the second consecutive year. Additionally, he was the team’s lone All-Star representative.
Realmuto is set to make $10 million this season, after losing out on his arbitration hearing where he filed for $12.4 million. After that is where things will get interesting.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Realmuto noted that if the country wasn’t in a global pandemic at this time, this is the time of the year that he would have a better understanding of what his future entailed.
“There’s a good chance that by this date something … yeah, I would have known one or the other,” Realmuto aknowledged. “So, there’s uncertainty in our household, just not knowing what’s going to happen. It has delayed the decision that we’re going to have to make. It’s really delayed what we know about our future.”
Before COVID-19 forced an MLB-wide transaction freeze, Jeff Berry, Realmuo’s agent was seen at the Phillies spring training complex, per Gelb. However, Realmuto told Gelb has yet to hear an official offer from the Phillies.
“We weren’t quite there yet,” Realmuto said. “The discussions were being had. I think it was going to start moving pretty quickly, really, to be honest. We only had two weeks left of spring training. There was definitely a feeling that things were about to start moving pretty quickly. And we just never could quite get going.”
It has been over eight weeks since the Phillies last spring training game, countless different plans in regards to starting up the season have been leaked and some of the teams in the league have announced they will soon furlough their employees. Realmuto said there is uncertainty at this time if the current financial situation within the league will help or hurt his case.
“Economically, nobody knows where the game’s going to be at at the end of this year,” Realmuto said. “This being my free-agent year, who knows what could happen with that.In all honesty, there are so many people going through so many hard times right now. For me, I’m just fortunate to be healthy and be in the situation where we can withstand this financially. It’s not going to kill us.”
Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper has made it clear that he wants Realmuto on the team for years to come.
“He’s the best catcher in baseball. He’s a guy that we need in our clubhouse,” Harper said to the collective media on April 6. “I want him more than anything so I mean it’s something we need to make happen as an organization.”
Even with Realmuto’s tremendous production last season, the Phillies went just 81-81. That’s a number they obviously hope to improve on if and when there is a 2020 season. If they lose Realmuto this offseason, they would seem to be headed in the wrong direction in terms of returning to the postseason and beyond.