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J.T. Realmuto on contract situation: ‘I’m focused on the season’

J.T. Realmuto scorched a 431-foot home run off of the center field wall at Citizens Bank Park in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 7-1 victory over the Miami Marlins. Just beyond Ashburn Alley, a few vocal fans – of course, not permitted into the actual stadium this season – started a “Sign J.T.!” chant.

J.T. Realmuto is in a contract season. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Realmuto, who can become a free agent after the 2020 season, laughed when told of the chant, and said that while he didn’t hear this specific one, he has heard other chants started by the group. By the time the season is over – and probably, much sooner – he’ll certainly hear some chants specifically pertaining to his future with the team.

When asked Sunday if he would negotiate a new deal during the season or plans to test free agency, Realmuto turned to what’s becoming a familiar refrain.

“To be honest, I’m focused on the season at this point,” Realmuto said Saturday night. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen. Nothing has happened thus far, so all I can do is go out and focus on the season and try to make this team as good as I can and help this team win ballgames.”

At the outset of summer camp, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak suggested that the circumstances around Realmuto negotiations had perhaps changed to some degree since spring training, when Realmuto had acknowledged that the two sides were in “preliminary discussions.”

“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.”

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.

Just prior to opening day, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they had signed superstar outfielder Mookie Betts to a 12-year/$365 million extension, taking potentially the best free agent in next offseaaon’s class of the board.

“I know J.T. had requested that he didn’t want to talk about it [contract negotiations] much, and I’m going to try to respect his wishes on that as well, so that it doesn’t serve as a distraction as we get ready for opening day,” Klentak said Thursday.

“In terms of the Mookie Betts contract, I had a chance to go through the terms this afternoon and look at it,” Klentak continued. “I’m always careful not to weigh in too much about another team’s player or contract, but I will say that it appears to me that it was a very creative and collaborative solution that really reflects the uniqueness of 2020. And I should probably just leave it there, just because that’s a player in someone else’s uniform and I don’t know all the particulars of what went into it, but I think I’ll kind of let it stand there.”

With Betts off the board, Realmuto may headline this upcoming offseason’s free agent class, one that is also slated to include Houston Astros’ outfielder George Springer, Oakland Athletics’ shortstop Marcus Semien, Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Trevor Bauer and New York Mets’ pitcher Marcus Stroman. He was encouraged by the Betts’ deal, but perhaps for different reasons than Klentak was.

“It was definitely positive to see for baseball, knowing that teams do still have that money,” Realmuto said when asked of Betts getting his deal in an uncertain economic climate. “Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I think that the teams at the top of the market are going to be willing to spend money and some teams are going to take advantage of the situation, where half or even three-quarters of the league might not be interested in spending as much money…other teams are gonna really go for it and push for those players. It was good to see him get what he deserves.”


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