Amongst the rubble that must be sifted from another failure of a Philadelphia Phillies season is what still is to come.
For the ninth-straight time, they’ll be watching the playoffs from home — a fact that shouldn’t have been the case over the past two years given the collection of talent that is on the roster but became a reality given the lack of depth and bullpen talent accrued by general manager Matt Klentak.
Needless to say, this offseason will have him put under the microscope even further if he continues to keep his job as Phillies GM, and among the first orders of business for the organization is the pursuit of retaining All-Star catcher JT Realmuto.
His teammate, Bryce Harper, is continuing the campaign for the Phillies to bring back the soon-to-be free agent, who will surely be testing the waters of the open market.
“J.T. Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year — plain and simple,” he said after the Phillies’ regular-season finale on Sunday.
“He’s the best catcher in baseball,” he continued. “He’s the best-hitting catcher in baseball. Our guys love to throw to him if that’s [Zack] Wheeler, if that’s [Aaron] Nola, if that’s anybody.”
Harper’s sentiments are valid. Realmuto is the most well-rounded catcher in Major League Baseball, providing a blend of offensive prowess, reliable defense, and speed on the basepaths not often seen from his position.
But such a skillset and track record will ensure that Realmuto will be close to the highest-paid catcher in baseball with a contract that should easily eclipse $100 million — and the Phillies will have plenty of competition to snag his signature once again.
Philadelphia’s NL East rival, the New York Mets, have already been linked to Realmuto. It is unlikely they’ll exercise their club option on veteran backstop Wilson Ramos and will have the need for a true No. 1 catcher.
With the impending introduction of new majority owner Steve Cohen, the Mets’ funds will see a significant surge that makes them major players on the free-agent market for the first time in decades.
Cohen is valued by Forbes at $14.6 billion, making him by far the richest owner in Major League Baseball while potentially making the Mets something they always should have been under proper ownership considering where they play: An annual contending threat.
That’s not the greatest news for the Phillies to hear given such a disappointing campaign, but things would only get worse if they see one of their stars in Realmuto walk to a division rival.
“Anybody that’s the best at their position — hitting and fielding — needs to be signed and that is J.T. Realmuto. I don’t think that should even be a question,” Harper said. “There’s going to be two teams or three teams in the NL East who are going to go after that guy and if that happens, I mean, that’s going to be tough to swallow for us.”