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Bryce Harper: It would be ‘terrible and sad’ if J.T. Realmuto isn’t re-signed

Bryce Harper has been lobbying to become J.T. Realmuto’s teammate since Harper was in D.C. and Realmuto was in Miami. As Realmuto enters a contract season, Harper isn’t mincing words – he’ll be upset if the All-Star catcher isn’t retained.

On the first day of summer camp Friday, Harper told the collective media, including Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that it would be “terrible and sad” if the Phillies don’t re-sign Realmuto,

Earlier this week, Harper was seen taking groundballs in a Realmuto shirsey:

Apparently, Harper – who called Realmuto his favorite player in baseball in his introductory press conference – wore the shirsey under his uniform for the entirety of the 2020 season, per Matt Gelb of The Athletic. Still, it’s a sign of how highly Harper thinks of Realmuto.

In his first season with the Phillies, Realmuto had pretty close to a perfect individual season. The 29-year-old catcher slashed .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs and 83 RBis, while winning his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award. However, behind the plate is where he shined the most, throwing out 37 would-be basestealers, while posting 11 defensive runs saved and 8.0 framing runs above average. For his contributions, Realmuto won his first Gold Glove Award. In total, Realmuto posted a 5.7 fWAR and was the Phillies lone All-Star.

In March, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Realmuto’s camp was targeting an extension similar to the five-year/$130 million deal that the St. Louis Cardinals signed Paul Goldschmidt to last March. That would comfortably allow him to usurp San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey as the highest-paid player at the position in terms of average annual value.

Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto are both entering their second seasons with the Phillies. (Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

In his media session earlier this week, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak suggested that since the MLB’s transaction freeze ended last week, the organization had been busy trying to figure out their initial roster pool and how to comply with MLB’s COVID-19 protocols. However, while he gave the sense that he hadn’t gotten back to the table with Realmuto’s agent Jeff Berry, he did acknowledge that the world has changed since the two had last discussed a new pact.

“The landscape we left in March is different from the landscape now,” Klentak said. “We have to see how that manifests itself. We still love the player and want to have him for the long haul. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. We need to factor that in.”

Klentak’s quote didn’t come off as a suggestion that the Phillies were re-thinking whether they wanted to mount a serious attempt to retain Realmuto, but instead a simple acknowledgment that the club doesn’t plan to bid against themselves. Have the economic impacts of COVID-19 changed how aggressive potential suitors would be willing to be if Realmuto hits free agency this offseason? Probably. So it feels really unlikely at this juncture that the Phillies would offer Realmuto six guaranteed seasons without knowing that there’s another team willing to match that offer. They may even prefer to pay him, say, $120 million over five seasons, rather than the $130 million he was believed to be seeking in spring training.

All that said, if Realmuto does reach free agency, there’s a chance that either the Washington Nationals or New York Mets could mount pushes for his services. The Phillies gave up a package headlined by former No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sanchez to the division-rival Miami Marlins to acquire Realmuto. Harper, who is under contract for 11 more seasons after 2020, has been outspoken in his desire for the Phillies to finish a deal with Realmuto. So maybe the leverage has shifted, but the Phillies still can’t afford to be left empty-handed after 2020.


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