Phillies managing partner John Middleton made one thing abundantly clear in regards to the J.T. Realmuto situation: re-signing him is an organizational priority.
How much they are willing to spend on the top free agent of the 2020-2021 offseason remains to be seen.
Middleton spoke with reporters Saturday afternoon shortly after the team announced that general manager Matt Klentak is stepping down from his position. Realmuto’s name came up multiple times in the press conference. He was asked about where things stand between the two sides.
“We kind of figured he’s going to be heading to free agency,” Middleton said. “We’ve figured that a long time ago. I see no change in that, generally.”
Middleton did not go into further detail on this but it begs the question of how much they were willing to negotiate with Realmuto’s camp during the regular season. Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press reported on Aug. 11 that Realmuto did not establish a deadline to negotiate with the team during the season because the Phillies never initiated talks. Realmuto was willing to negotiate in-season, per Maaddi.
Before the pandemic hit, Realmuto told John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia before his arbitration meeting with the Phillies, “I could see myself staying in Philadelphia and playing my entire career here. Also being one year away from free agency, that wouldn’t be bad for me either. But I don’t think it will get to that. I think the Phillies and myself could line up pretty well.”
Well, it has gotten to that point. There’s still a good chance the Phillies could re-sign their star catcher, but there will be other suitors. Most of them will probably come from within the division.
Middleton also made it clear that he isn’t willing to throw a blank check Realmuto’s way after agreeing that signing him is an organizational priority. Middleton was asked how baseball’s COVID-19 impacted economy factors into the decision to re-sign Realmuto.Embed from Getty Images
“I can’t tell you. Can you tell me what the governor [of Pennsylvania] and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans? Because if you do, you know something that I don’t,” Middleton said.
We’ve known for a while that the Phillies are planning to scale down after a shortened 2020 season with no fans in the stands. The Athletic’s Matt Gelb first reported that the team offered buy-out packages to a number of rank-and-file employees. A recent e-mail to Phillies employees read that layoffs are “inevitable”.
The team could also look to cut payroll. Middleton admitted that a shortfall in revenues could impact their ability to sign Realmuto.
“I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed,” Middleton said in reference to how many fans Citizens Bank Park could hold next season — if any. “Obviously, that’s going to determine revenues and revenues determine what you can and can’t do.”
And with that, one of the more crucial offseasons in Phillies history kicks off.
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