The Mets were indeed in on J.T. Realmuto. Team president Sandy Alderson confirmed Monday over Zoom that the team had conversations with Realmuto and his representatives but the timing wasn’t right.
“We have a number of needs and we can afford to wait to fill some of them,” Alderson told the New York media on Monday. “We can’t afford to wait to fill all of them. This wasn’t a compromise pick. We’ve been engaged with James [McCann] for a considerable period of time.
“There’s a lot to like about James. In terms of the two of them, part of it was our really strong interest in James and what he’s done over the last couple of years and what we think he can do for us going forward. But at the same time, we have had conversations with J.T.”
New York is expected to officially announce the signing of the former Tigers and White Sox catcher to a four-year deal as soon as Wednesday, which would take the Mets firmly out of the Realmuto sweepstakes. Heading in to the offseason, the Mets seemed to be the biggest external threat to the Phillies’ chances of re-signing the star catcher.
While McCann has been up there with Realmuto in terms of offensive production the past two seasons, Realmuto is the superior choice by far. Realmuto’s 15.6 fWAR leads all catchers since 2017 and dwarfs McCann’s 3.9 fWAR in that same time span. McCann could very well be one of the better backstops in the game in the next couple of years but he’s just not in the elite category like Realmuto is.
McCann, however, was the much cheaper option. Like the Phillies, the Mets came into the offseason with the hole at the catcher’s position. Signing McCann gives them the flexibility to go after either George Springer or Trevor Bauer later in the offseason.
Alderson also said that the market for top players is moving much slower than the second-tier.
“When you have different parts of the market that are moving in different paces, you have to make some decisions,” Alderson said. “You have to make choices. Not only based on the player alternatives but also the timing.
“Right now, things are a little slower in the gourmet section than they are in the meat department. That’ll change. I talked to one agent today who has a very good player that is a free agent who might not sign until January or February. They’re just playing it by ear.”
This could provide a bit of insight as to how long it could take for Realmuto to sign. If it appears the Phillies are his only serious suitors as of now, he may opt to wait as long as he can for other teams to get involved in the bidding. The Toronto Blue Jays, for example, could aggressively pursue Realmuto if they don’t land DJ LeMahieu.
The Phillies could also come in with an offer that satisfies Realmuto and his camp rather quickly. It seems highly unlikely since the Phillies have repeatedly claimed that the budget this offseason is limited and Realmuto has his sights on setting the bar higher for future catchers in free agency. To sign Realmuto in the next few weeks, the team may have to do what the Mets did with McCann and pay a higher price to forgo having to play the waiting game.
Then again, the team is well aware that they need to add a new catcher to the roster via free agency or trade. Joe Girardi told reporters on Monday that the Phillies only have one MLB-ready catcher on the roster in Andrew Knapp and that the team has to address the position. If the second or third-tier catchers such as Mike Zunino, Curt Casali, Kurt Suzuki or Yadier Molina begin jumping off the board, the Phillies will have to start moving quickly on Realmuto.
The Phillies will add a catcher come Opening Day 2021. Whether that catcher is Realmuto or not remains to be seen. At the moment, Phillies fans can rejoice in the fact that Realmuto won’t be behind the plate for the team’s biggest rival.
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