By all accounts, it was an innocent phone call. But Jeff Berry reaching out to new Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski for the first time is newsworthy, even if their first conversation didn’t involve negotiating a new deal for Berry’s most well-known client, J.T. Realmuto.
“His agent actually called me yesterday,” Dombrowski revealed Tuesday. “It really was not a negotiation, it was a ‘Welcome to the Phillies organization.’ I’ve known Jeff Berry for a long time and talked to him, he welcomed me aboard and we talked about my family and talked about his family and said that we would stay in contact. I expressed to him, again, how much we’d love to have J.T. on board, and that’s really where it ended at that point.”
So, should we read anything into Berry contacting Dombrowski?
“I don’t read anything into it other than I’ve known him a long time and he reached out to me,” Dombrowski said when asked a follow-up question. “I guess the good part is that we continue to have cordial conversations, and he’s fortunate enough to represent a quality player. It makes it very simple for me to tell him how much we would love to have him.”
Realmuto, who will turn 30 in March, has spent the past two seasons in Philadelphia, cementing his status as the most complete catcher in the sport. The Phillies sent a package headlined by righty Sixto Sánchez to the division-rival Miami Marlins in February of 2019 to acquire Realmuto, which would add insult to injury if the two-time All-Star departs in free agency.
That said, Dombrowski wasn’t employed by the Phillies when the trade was made. Sure, he’d like to re-sign Realmuto, as he’s made clear since being hired by the Phillies. But is Dombrowski’s reputation tied to re-signing Realmuto in the same way that former general manager Matt Klentak’s was? No.
MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki reported that Realmuto’s representation “had been seeking a contract in excess of $200 million” at one point. Said price may not still be the ask from Berry and company, but certainly anything approaching it is one that the Phillies – and probably every other team in the league – will balk at.
The more interesting discussion is whether the Phillies will be able to surround Realmuto with a competitive team should they re-sign him. Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote Monday that “the Phillies have suggested they do not have significant money to spend, according to sources — unless they re-sign Realmuto.” If the Phillies re-sign Realmuto, they’ll continue to employ the best catcher in baseball, but with a self-imposed budget, it will be hard to get the most from a team perspective while he’s still at his peak.
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