The Philadelphia Phillies’ sudden pivot from crying poor to trying to retain the best catcher in baseball at least offers hope that they’ll attempt to remain competitive in 2021.
After MLB insider Jon Heyman reported that re-signing JT Realmuto was the top priority of the Phillies on Monday — including the claim that they submitted a contract offer — NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark reported that a contract has not been put forward by the club yet.
Clark added that the Phillies remain interested in a reunion but “are playing the long game to see where Realmuto’s market goes.”
The market for Realmuto is not as teeming as initially expected. By far the best catcher in the game and one of the very best players available on the free-agent market, there was a belief that numerous teams would be going all out for the 29-year-old.
But the largest suitor of the bunch, the New York Mets, opted to sign James McCann — the second-best catching option available — for a much cheaper deal at four years, $40.6 million. Realmuto is expected to make over $100 million in a four-to-five year deal.
Mets president Sandy Alderson hinted that they couldn’t wait around for Realmuto’s camp, meaning a decision might not come for a while longer.
“We can afford to wait to fill some [holes], but we can’t afford to wait to fill all of them,” he said earlier this month. “This wasn’t a compromise pick. Part of it was our really strong interest in James, but at the same time, we had conversations with JT…The short answer is we talked to both.”
Since the Mets left the catching market, the Realmuto talks have slowed, especially because the Phillies were once believed to not have the funds to afford him.
After losing $145 million because of the pandemic, they were facing an offseason of losing Realmuto, aggravating their superstar outfielder in Bryce Harper who has constantly campaigned for the catcher’s return, and potentially trading away No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler after signing him to a five-year, $118 million deal just last offseason.
But the hiring of Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations indicates that the Phillies want to remain on a “win now” trajectory, even though their roster is filled with holes that have them as steep underdogs in the NL East behind the Mets, Atlanta Braves, and Washington Nationals.
Dombrowski revealed last week that the Phillies have been in touch with Realmuto’s representation, but it’s been more of a sending-out-the-feelers inquiry rather than actual negotiations.