Published by Fran Cava
The season hasn’t finished yet, but the hot stove is already heating up.
It’s no secret that J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball. Currently there is no other player at the position as versatile as he has been. The guy could be considered a 5-tool player, minus a high batting average which in 2020 means nothing. He gets on base at a higher clip than any other catcher, is the best base runner among his peers, and is top 3 in most defensive metrics for the position. Most importantly his service time has just made him eligible for free agency, and reports are flooding out that he has played his last game in the City of Brotherly Love.
Besides his obvious talent, what makes J.T. even more appealing to front offices this winter is his age. Right now he sits on the right side of 30, which for a fast hitting catcher is an analytical departments dream. It’s the exact reason as to why the Phillies were so eager to trade for him, and especially why they were okay parting with Sixto Sanchez in the deal. That decision now clearly looks as if it has backfired, as Sixto looks like a legitimate ace, and J.T. is leaving Philly after playing just 192 games.
Philly once again underperformed this year, after having high expectations with the “huge” addition of Joe Girardi this past winter. Their roster is in a weird place, where they have a ton of talent but lack the depth of a serious contender. Besides a shitty bullpen their rotation needs help, and they can use another quality outfielder. A lot of these holes could be plugged during the offseason, but in a weak free agent class for pitchers they may find themselves in the same situation next season. The consensus report the past few days has been that J.T could be seeking a contract upwards of $200 million, which for Philly is a bit too steep. If they truly wanted to they could make a huge offer since they have nearly $70 million coming off the
books, but that could put them in financial hell if it doesn’t pay off. With other players to retain, and holes to fill a huge deal doesn’t seem likely.
While $200 million sounds exorbitant for a guy at a notoriously wearing position about to turn 30, front offices the past few seasons have not been shy with their capital. Everyone and their mother has signed nine figure deals the past two years, and I don’t see that trend slowing down. There’s no doubt a big-market team like the Yankees or Mets would throw $200 million at him, but it makes more sense for a team to give a shorter deal with a higher AAV. A realistic AAV for J.T. is in the ballpark of 28-32 million. The years are hard to judge. Depending on the teams situation he could get anywhere in the range of a 5 to 8 year deal. A potential deal that sounds right is 6 years for $180 million total($30 million AAV). In the odd chance he gets 8 years, J.T. very well may get the rare $200 million dollar contract he seeks. Teams expected to be involved are the Steve Cohen owned New York Mets, the Texas Rangers who openly want to make a big free-agent splash, and the St. Louis Cardinals who plan to move on from Hall of Famer Yadier Molina this upcoming season.