Phillies Nation

2020 Offseason

The New York Mets are the Phillies’ biggest competition for J.T. Realmuto


For those who don’t know, the New York Mets are transitioning to a new ownership group. Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, who is worth $14.6 billion according to Forbes, will become the richest owner in Major League Baseball pending ownership approval. That’s likely to happen before the Owners Meetings in November.

J.T. Realmuto hits during a game against the New York Mets in 2019 (Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

The Mets are also in desperate need of competency at the catcher’s position. They signed former Phillie Wilson Ramos to a two-year, $19 million contract in December 2018. He hit well in the first year of the deal but struggled in 2020 and continued to be a liability behind the plate. Ramos’ inability to get a tag down at home plate cost the Mets a victory against the Phillies:

Ramos has a $10 million club option and a $1.5 million buyout for 2021. The Mets will almost certainly decline that and set themselves up to pursue Realmuto.

Realmuto will have many suitors outside the Phillies and Mets. The New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves Houston Astros and Texas Rangers could be in the mix. For Phillies fans whose sanity depends on the team re-signing the best catcher in baseball, you should be most afraid of the Mets swooping in with an offer he can’t refuse.

For starters, the Mets have a significant amount of payroll flexibility heading into the offseason. The Athletic’s Tim Britton estimates the Mets’ 2021 competitive-balance payroll to be around $135 million before free agency. That takes into account player and team options, pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players and guaranteed contracts. The luxury tax threshold for the 2020 season is $210 million.

To put that in perspective, the Phillies have over $101 million counting toward the luxury tax in guaranteed contracts for 2021 alone (Harper, Wheeler, McCutchen, Segura, Nola, Herrera and Kingery). They still have to pay as many as ten players who are eligible for arbitration and those who are making league minimum. The Mets only have three guaranteed contracts totaling over $52 million but their bill for arbitration-eligible players will be significantly higher than the Phillies.

The Phillies will most likely be looking to cut payroll relative to where it was in 2020 before salaries were prorated. The division-rival Mets could go in the opposite direction and increase payroll. The Phillies and Mets ranked fifth and sixth in the league in payroll respectively in 2020 and were the two clubs who spent the most without going over the luxury tax.

Speaking of the tax, John Middleton and the ownership group are hesitant to go over it. A big reason why the Phillies and Realmuto are where they are is that the team feared an extension before the 2020 season could put them over the threshold. In return, locking up the best catcher in baseball has become a more expensive proposition. He could be eyeing a deal close to $200 million, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

Philadelphia has plenty working in its favor when it comes to re-signing Realmuto. He has gone on record multiple times in the past to say how much he and his family have enjoyed their time in Philadelphia. If all teams involved are offering similar deals, perhaps familiarity is what draws him back.

The Mets, like the Phillies, also have multiple glaring holes. It could make sense for the team to pursue the other two marquee free agents of the upcoming class: starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and outfielder George Springer. They could use another top-tier starting pitcher with Noah Syndergaard expected to miss part of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Marcus Stroman heading to free agency. The Mets could also use Springer’s bat in the lineup.

Then again, the Mets have the payroll flexibility to sign Bauer, Springer and Realmuto. Would it be smart? Probably not. Cohen and the Mets should reflect on the current state of the Phillies and see them as a cautionary tale: Throwing money at your problems won’t solve them.

The Mets, however, have had catching problems for years, and signing Realmuto will immediately solve almost all of them. If he puts pen to paper on a lucrative deal with the Mets, expect a nauseating amount of Mike Piazza comparisons and stories about how the Phillies completely botched the entire situation.

It might hurt a lot.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jaron B

    October 13, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Evaluation of the trade/ handling of the front office depends on what deal JT gets. AAV of <$30MM and 4-6 YR is a reasonable deal for his production and the team can get very clever with the per-year value (AAV still counts toward tax; 6 YR/ $180MM breaks down to two 3-YR deals of $32.5MM AAV for first 3 YR and $27.5MM AAV for last 3.) and bonuses/ options for awards, GS/ PAs, % of PAs at the C position that could make the deal worth close to $200MM.

    Initial offer would be 4YR/$130MM or 5YR/$150MM or 6YR/$170MM and options will make the deal worth 6-7 YR.

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