Arbitration hearings usually fly under the radar in Major League Baseball’s grand scheme of things because they usually don’t do much to move the needle.
It’s mostly litigation with one player wanting a certain amount of money while his team — who still has control of him despite the lack of a set salary — looks to offer less.
Again, most of the time there isn’t much drama that comes out of it, but Wednesday provided plenty of pause from Phillies fans as they kept an eye out on proceedings down in Phoenix. There, JT Realmuto and Phillies management attended their arbitration hearing to decide the All-Star catcher’s 2020 salary.
The results of the hearing were not known at the time of this paper’s publishing but could be revealed on Thursday.
Realmuto wanted $12.4 million in 2020 while general manager Matt Klentak and Co. were set at $10 million. It was up to a three-person judiciary panel to settle on a price.
At the end of the day, $2.4 million doesn’t really make much of a difference, especially when it comes to paying one of the best catchers in the game.
The 28-year-old had one of his finest seasons as a pro in 2019, his first with the Phillies after being acquired from the Miami Marlins.
In 145 games, he slashed .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI as Philadelphia’s most consistent player during an inconsistent and overall disappointing campaign.
While Realmuto has made it known that there won’t be any ill will toward Phillies management should that $12.4 million demand not be met, this could be set in the back of his mind next winter.
Realmuto will be an unrestricted free agent where he is expected to become the highest-paid catcher in the game.
That’s not saying much considering St. Louis Cardinals veteran backstop Yadier Molina currently holds the title of largest average annual salary at $20 million per year. It also doesn’t help the Phillies’ wallets that the Chicago White Sox gave Yasmani Grandal a four-year, $73 million deal this offseason.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Realmuto looks to secure a deal worth $25 million annually on the market.
There were initial hopes that the Phillies and their catcher would hammer out an extension before the end of spring training, but that doesn’t seem like it will happen.
Realmuto even admitted that those negotiations “haven’t even started.”
But considering what the Phillies gave up to the Marlins to get Realmuto (Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez), they want much more than two years of his services behind the plate.
Expect management to be a bit less stingy with their money when the time to talk about a new contract does happen.