If J.T. Realmuto has his way, Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays won’t prove to be the final time he put on a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. That said, there’s no evidence that the two-time All-Star catcher plans to give the Phillies any sort of hometown discount.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia says that Realmuto “is targeting a figure way beyond $23 million” per season. That annual figure comes from the eight-year/$184 million deal that Joe Mauer signed with the Minnesota Twins in March of 2011. Is Realmuto as great as Mauer was at his peak? No, but he is the best player at his position in the sport and even in a suboptimal economic climate, there’s been nearly a decade’s worth of inflation since Mauer signed his deal.
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’s about in line with Salisbury’s report, as such a deal would allow Realmuto to make $26 million per season.
Will the Phillies be willing to meet such an asking price? Salisbury says that Realmuto “wants to stay in Philadelphia,” but also leaves you with the impression that he may go to whoever the highest bidder is.
Given that they parted with Sixto Sánchez to acquire Realmuto and he’s become a fan favorite, the Phillies seemingly should be the most motivated team to meet the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner’s asking price. However, general manager Matt Klentak didn’t sound so certain about Realmuto’s future the last time he spoke on the topic.
“I mean, look, what I’ve said all along is that we would love to have J.T., but when you make that trade, you’re trading for two years of control, and you know that,” Klentak said earlier this month. “Sixto looked really good against us, he’s looked good this year, but we’ve had two very productive years from J.T. as well.”
It’s, of course, unknown if Klentak will even remain the team’s general manager after the organization missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
What is known is where Bryce Harper stands on this issue.
“J.T. Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year,” Harper said after Sunday’s game. “Plain and simple. He’s the best catcher in baseball. He’s the best hitting catcher in baseball. Our guys love to throw to him.”
Beyond a desire to retain the star catcher, Harper pointed to the very real possibility that if he isn’t re-signed by the Phillies, Realmuto could end up suiting up for a division-rival.
“Anybody that is the best at their position hitting and fielding, needs to be signed. And that is J.T. Realmuto,” Harper continued. “And I don’t think that should even be a question or anything, because there’s going to be two or three teams in the NL East that are gonna go after that guy, and if that happens, I mean, that’s gonna be tough to swallow for us.”
Mets fans are already giddy about the possibility of new owner Steve Cohen potentially luring Realmuto to Queens. Back when Harper was in D.C., the Nationals were pretty frequently connected to Realmuto. The Nationals finished in last place in the National League East in 2020, so they will seemingly be looking to make a major move to upgrade their roster this offseason. However, Salisbury added that Realmuto, who will turn 30 before next season, “is said to have an attraction to Atlanta.” The Braves just won their fourth consecutive National League East crown, and adding Realmuto to a lineup that already includes Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies would be a devastating outcome for the Phillies.
Salisbury did say the New York Yankees could be a contender, and added that Realmuto, an Oklahoma native, wouldn’t mind playing for either the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers because of the proximity to his hometown. Any outcome where Realmuto leaves Philadelphia would leave a bad taste in the mouths of Phillies fans. However, if he left and signed with an American League team, it would perhaps burn less than if he joined a National League East rival.
The Phillies did fail to post a winning record in either of their seasons with Realmuto in the fold, which some will argue is a sign that they could make better use of their resources. Still, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Phillies are a better team on opening day 2021 if Realmuto isn’t in Joe Girardi’s lineup.
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