The division-rival New York Mets were initially seen as the Philadelphia Phillies’ biggest competition for catcher J.T. Realmuto. Now, it seems like the Mets may not even be a major factor in the sweepstakes for the two-time All-Star.
Robert Murray of FanSided reported Thursday that the Mets are “in active talks” with free-agent catcher James McCann. While Murray cautions that a deal is “not yet close,” this is the latest sign that the Mets seem more likely to address their need at catcher by signing McCann than Realmuto. Earlier this week, Andy Martino of SNY reported that “the Mets are after McCann more serious than Realmuto.” Martino said the Mets’ interest in McCann is “potentially serious,” so today’s report is seemingly the next development in the the story.
If the Mets ultimately sign McCann, it’s hard to see who the biggest threat to the Phillies would be to sign Realmuto.
An anonymous league executive opined to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic last month that the Nationals “could be a player” for Realmuto, but Rosenthal wrote this week that “the Nats remain unlikely to be a major player for a big-ticket item such as Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant or free-agent infielder DJ LeMahieu.” Presumably, that would make the Nationals swooping and signing Realmuto less than likely as well.
The Yankees tendered a contract to Gary Sanchez Thursday, so it appears that they’ll run things back with him and Kyle Higashioka in 2021. Now, if LeMahieu departs in free agency, perhaps that would make Brian Cashman and company more likely to pursue Realmuto. For the time being, they don’t seem to be a major threat to the Phillies.
Craig Mish of SportsGrid reported that the Toronto Blue Jays are “expected to be involved throughout the process” of Realmuto’s free agent stint. It’s possible we are underestimating them or another suitor yet to be linked to Realmuto.
Still, the Mets were seen by many at the outset of the offseason as being the favorites to sign Realmuto. If they bow out before the new year, it would seemingly make the Phillies the most likely landing spot for his services.
Perhaps the most interesting note from Murray is that it “is looking increasingly like McCann will land a four-year deal.” Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, who normally makes relatively accurate predictions, projected that McCann would sign a two-year/$20 million deal at the beginning of the offseason. If McCann ends up signing for four years, does that mean Realmuto will get six or seven years? His camp may like to think so, but the Mets rather quickly turning their attention somewhere else leads you to believe they have reservations about meeting the asking price of a catcher who will turn 30 before the 2021 season starts.
Phillies’ president Andy MacPhail said in October that the organization hasn’t been “able to find anything approaching common ground” in past discussions with Realmuto’s camp. Still, when pressed by Phillies Nation, MacPhail admitted that he was cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances to re-sign the 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.”
The bet that the Phillies made by allowing Realmuto to reach free agency was that his asking price would come back down to earth with a trip to the open market. If new Mets’ owner Steve Cohen had set his heart on Realmuto, the Phillies likely would have lost that bet. However, if Cohen and the Mets ultimately move forward and sign McCann, the Phillies may win their bet.
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