One of the first chips that will help dictate the future of All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto looks to have already been dropped.
On Saturday, the Phillies announced that their general manager, Matt Klentak, stepped down and will be reassigned to another role within the organization — a move that many saw coming after the 40-year-old was unable to find the right supplemental pieces to make the team a competitive threat in the NL East.
Among his largest whiffs was an inability to get a long-term deal worked out with Realmuto after they acquired him from the Miami Marlins for top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who is fresh off taking his team to the NLDS after a sterling performance against the Chicago Cubs.
Now with Realmuto destined to test the free-agency waters, Phillies owner John Middleton doesn’t sound too optimistic about his team’s chances of bringing him back to Philadelphia, citing an uncertainty of how much there will be to spend due to a potential lack of fans and revenues.
“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans?” Middleton said Saturday. “Because if you do, you know something that I don’t. So I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed. Obviously, that will determine our revenues, and revenues determine what you can do and what you can’t do.”
Realmuto is on the precipice of becoming the highest-paid catcher in baseball and there is one team — the Mets — who seem to be the initial front-runners for his signature this winter.
With new majority owner Steve Cohen set to take control as soon as the end of October, the Mets will experience a surge in funding behind the richest club owner in Major League Baseball — valued at $14.6 billion.
A bona fide No. 1 catcher will be near the top of the Mets’ wish list this offseason. Veteran Wilson Ramos struggled mightily in the truncated season, which all but confirmed the team won’t pick up his club option for 2021.
Seeing as the talent pool for five-tool MLB catchers is non-existent, it makes Realmuto the logical choice for a team that could finally meet expectations and consistently compete.
Should Realmuto’s services enter a bidding war — which it certainly seems destined to do — the advantage quickly tilts toward the Mets or any other big-market club that takes a flyer on the 29-year-old.
Given the current climate of MLB mega-deals, the undisputed best catcher in baseball could fetch a contract near $200 million, which would be another albatross on the Phillies’ books considering they are already paying Bryce Harper $330 million.
This article first appeared on AMNY.com