Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

With emergence of Sixto, does Matt Klentak feel more pressure to re-sign Realmuto?

Former Philadelphia Phillies No. 1 overall prospect Sixto Sánchez has been downright dominant for the division-rival Miami Marlins in his first taste of the majors. In six starts for the Fish, Sánchez is 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA and 0.9 fWAR.

J.T. Realmuto is in his second season with the Phillies. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

Earlier this month, the Phillies got a front-row view of Sánchez’s electric repertoire, as he limited the Phillies to just three hits and one run over the course of a seven-inning complete game.

Does Sánchez’s emergence put more pressure on Matt Klentak to re-sign Realmuto this offseason?

“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 Monday. “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.”

There is a very real angle here that if Sánchez turns out to be a No. 1 starter – especially for a team in your own division – it’s going to be hard to feel like the Phillies won or even broke even in the trade. Simply put, you don’t trade front-line pitching, especially if they are capable of regularly pushing 100 mph.

That said, losing Realmuto after two seasons would add insult to injury, especially with the possibility of a team like the New York Mets being a potential suitor for the two-time All-Star’s services. Sure, the Phillies knew they were only guaranteed two seasons of Realmuto when they traded for him, but by no means did they plan to lose him after the 2020 season.

Perhaps some economic fallout from COVID-19 has changed their plans, in which case an organization that’s already frustrated fans for the better part of a decade is in for a rough offseason from a public relations standpoint.

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.

At this point, it feels like Realmuto will be allowed to test the free-agent market. Perhaps he and his agent Jeff Barry will come to the conclusion that the Phillies, assuming a legitimate offer is ultimately made, are presenting the best deal. There is a reality, though, that it would only take one motivated team to swoop in during free agency and sign Realmuto away.

This discussion, of course, assumes that Klentak will remain the general manager beyond the 2020 season. The Phillies are hanging on to one of the final playoff spots in the National League, but the team’s bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster for much of 2020. With Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard having graduated to the majors, the outlook on the farm system is one again rather bleak. And reviews of the deal that sent Sánchez to Miami as part of the package for Realmuto aren’t as great as they were at this time last year, for a variety of reasons.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote Monday that Klentak, hired in October of 2015, “might be in trouble.” This was perhaps meant as an observation more than a report, but it probably wasn’t a throwaway line.

So does Klentak think that the Phillies making or missing the playoffs will decide his fate?

“I think that right now, our focus is on the next seven games, and if we take care of business in the next seven games, I think then we can start looking forward to what will hopefully be an exciting October,” Klentak said. “After the season is over, we can look back and kind of go through the post-mortem.”

In many senses, though, it feels like the story of the 2020 Phillies is already written. If they miss the playoffs, it will be because they had one of the worst bullpens in the history of the league. If they make the playoffs but are an early exit, the viewpoint will be that the bullpen built by this front office prevented the team from being a World Series contender.

There’s no indication that Klentak wouldn’t want to return for 2021, but he wouldn’t exactly be faced with an enviable group of tasks this offseason. First, he would have to fend off other suitors for Realmuto. Second, he would essentially need to oversee a rebuild of the entire bullpen. Come to think of it, this next week may be the less stressful facing Klentak in some time.


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