A report emerged Monday that the Philadelphia Phillies would have interest in free-agent catcher James McCann if J.T. Realmuto departs in free agency.
Of course, that will be a moot point if the Phillies are ultimately able to reach a long-term agreement to keep Realmuto in red pinstripes. And there appears to be a mildly positive development on that front.
According to Andy Martino of SNY, the division-rival Mets are “after McCann more than Realmuto,” at least currently. Martino added that “sources outside the organization see the Mets’ interest in McCann as potentially serious.”
Considering RADIO.COM MLB Insider Jon Heyman mentioned the Mets among a list of six teams (including the Phillies) that are interested in McCann this morning, their interest isn’t a shocking development. What’s new here is that the Mets seem to be keen on McCann with the intention of spreading their major resources elsewhere, potentially in center field with George Springer, per Martino.
There are many moving parts here, of course. Heyman reported earlier this month that the Toronto Blue Jays are interested in Springer, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca following up over the weekend to say that the team “has progressed beyond just talking” with the former World Series MVP. Even if the Mets would prefer to sign Springer over Realmuto, if the Blue Jays or another team lands their top target, the Mets could absolutely pivot to Realmuto. After all, new owner Steve Cohen wants to win a World Series within the next five seasons and president Sandy Alderson said over the weekend that the Mets are more likely to make major moves in free agency than on the trade market.
All that acknowledged, it would be a massive development for the Phillies if the Mets didn’t turn out to be a major player for Realmuto. There are quite a few people who believe that if Cohen sets his mind on landing a player this offseason, the Mets have a good chance to do so. Eliminating the Mets not only would make the Phillies the clear favorite to re-sign Realmuto, but could potentially affect how much he ultimately signs for.
As we noted earlier this offseason, projections for how many years Realmuto will ultimately sign for range between four and six seasons. While it’s hard to imagine the two-time All-Star signing for less than five total seasons, could the Mets going in another direction keep the Phillies or any other suitors from having to seriously consider guaranteeing a sixth season? Perhaps. For as good as Realmuto is, the total years in a deal for a catcher who will turn 30 before the 2021 season begins has to be something that’s seriously weighed. Realmuto’s value will drop tremendously if he has to move to first base or DH – on a part-time or full-time basis – in the final years of his next contract.
Earlier this offseason, Phillies president Andy MacPhail said that the team wasn’t “able to find anything approaching common ground” in past negotiations with agent Jeff Berry. Still, when pressed, MacPhail sounded cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances to re-sign their star catcher.
“Yeah, because there are two things that we’ve got going for us. The first is that I think he enjoyed his time here and obviously, we want him back. So I think those two things give you some measure of hope. In any offseason, there are just an amazing amount of variables, you can just multiply that exponentially this offseason. But yeah, as long as the player enjoyed his time here and the team has a legitimate interest in bringing him back, there’s that possibility.”
Perhaps the Phillies believe that a trip to free agency may bring Realmuto’s team back to earth with their asking price. That’s a gamble, but one that they may ultimately win if the Mets don’t make a major push for Realmuto.
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