The main focus surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies’ offseason will continue to be re-signing All-Star catcher JT Realmuto — who is expected to test the free-agency waters and sign quite a sizable deal in the process.
His teammate — for now — in Bryce Harper only continued to echo those sentiments as he posted a photo on Instagram of him wearing a Realmuto jersey while boarding a plane back home to Las Vegas for the winter with the caption, “reppin’ all winter.”
While Harper continues to pressure Phillies management into bringing back Realmuto, owner John Middleton didn’t leave much room for optimism over the weekend, even while stating that retaining the catcher was a top priority.
“Can you tell me what the governor [of Pennsylvania] and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans? Because if you do, you know something that I don’t,” he said continued. “I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed. Obviously, that’s going to determine revenues and revenues determine what you can and can’t do.”
They’ll have to try and hold off a potential challenge from the New York Mets, who will experience a surge in funds once hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen is approved by the MLB club owners to overtake majority ownership of the club, amongst others.
That could mean Realmuto getting a contract near $200 million, which may be too rich for the Phillies’ blood.
Should the Phillies lose out on the sweepstakes, there could be a backup plan in place, though it addresses an entirely different area of the field.
MLB insider Jon Heyman speculated on his podcast, Big Time Baseball, that the Phillies could pursue Cincinnati Reds ace and expected NL Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer, in free agency.
“I would not be shocked if they are right in the middle of it for Trevor Bauer,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of teams in on Trevor Bauer, though, especially with him going out there and saying he’s willing to do a one-year deal. Now that push comes to shove and he could be the Cy Young winner…certainly a leading candidate for that award and he pitched great in the postseason against the Braves. But I think if they are unable to sign Realmuto — and I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave it another shot with Realmuto — but I have heard of some pessimism there… I think they’ll look towards Bauer and they’ll look towards James McCann, who is a catcher with the White Sox.”
Bauer would bolster the top of the Phillies’ pitching staff alongside Aaron Nola, who had a decent bounceback campaign in 2020 after an inconsistent season a year earlier. He could very well be the team’s undisputed ace, too, considering he posted a league-best 1.73 ERA and 0.795 WHIP in 11 starts this season.
His presence brings a more suitable order to the Phillies’ rotation, allowing Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta to act as mid-to-second-half arms within the rotation rather than having to be the go-to guys supporting Nola.