J.T. Realmuto and the Philadelphia Phillies are finalizing a five-year contract worth $115.5 million, according to Craig Mish. The deal is pending a physical.
After 87 days on the free-agent market, Realmuto finally gets his big payday. The deal shatters Yasmani Grandal’s free-agent AAV record ($18.3 million) as well as Mike Piazza’s total guarantees ($91 million). Realmuto also breaks Joe Mauer’s AAV record by $100,000. Realmuto is slated to get $23.1 million per year (Mauer’s record was $23 million).
The Phillies traded top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and left-handed pitcher Will Stewart to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Realmuto almost two years ago. They began negotiating with Realmuto on an extension shortly after the trade but chose not to ramp up discussions last offseason as they were reluctant to go over the luxury tax.
The two sides resumed talks after the Phillies won an arbitration case against Realmuto. The shutdown, which resulted in a transaction freeze, halted talks for a second time. The two sides once again began negotiating after Mookie Betts signed a 12-year/$365 million extension but the talks led to nowhere. John Middleton said in October that the Phillies figured the catcher would test free agency “a long time ago.”
Realmuto was billed as the best catcher in baseball upon arrival and he did not disappoint. Since 2019, the Oklahoma native slashed .273/.333/.492 with 36 home runs and 115 RBIs in 788 plate appearances. He leads all catchers (min. 500 plate appearances) in fWAR (7.4), FanGraphs offensive WAR (19.9), defensive WAR (32.1), slugging percentage (.492) and stolen bases (13) the last two seasons. He led the league in average pop-time to second base (1.89 seconds) and attempted baserunners thrown out (37) in 2019. With the help of the coaching staff, Realmuto also improved dramatically as both a framer and a blocker.
Signing a catcher to long-term contract doesn’t come without risk. Realmuto underwent a minor knee procedure in 2019 and sustained a hip injury in 2020. While he’s still well in his prime, the back-end of the deal could be costly if Realmuto’s production falls off a cliff.
While Realmuto didn’t get the deal he aimed for, he has to be pleased that his time on the market brought him a massive contract in the city he preferred to play in.
Nevertheless, Realmuto will spend the bulk of his career in the City of Brother Love.
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