There’s little debate that JT Realmuto is the crown jewel of the position-player free-agent market this offseason.
Arguably the best catcher in baseball, the 29-year-old is poised for a handsome payday as the very best available at a position that does not offer the kind of five-tool production he presents.
Realmuto will test the free-agency waters this offseason where his most recent club — the Philadelphia Phillies — have already tempered expectations in bringing him back for the 2021 season and beyond.
It adds even more blood to the water as the sharks are beginning to circle for the two-time All-Star.
The New York Mets have been linked with a pursuit of Realmuto ever since soon-to-be majority owner Steve Cohen entered exclusive negotiations to buy the team back in August.
All he’ll need is the 22 approval votes of the 29 remaining MLB club owners and the $14.6 billionaire will be able to supply the Mets with a surge of funds to make them apex predators on the free-agent market. Though Cohen might not necessarily spend that way, as previously reported.
There is also a sentiment growing that the New York Yankees could throw their hats into the Realmuto ring. It appears that the organization has lost faith in Gary Sanchez — long-considered to be the catcher of the future, but whose struggles both at the plate and behind it have remained consistent.
It is creating all the makings of a bidding war, which bodes well for Realmuto’s wallet, but just how high are teams willing to go?
Not as high as Realmuto might like.
Multiple reports over the last week or so have suggested that Realmuto’s camp is looking for his next contract to be near $200 million total — a payday never before seen for a catcher.
And for good reason. Playing a majority of one’s games behind the plate presents the greatest chance of injury, whether it’s the wear and tear that comes with the position or simply the constant strain that is put on the knees.
Realmuto himself has dealt with knee and hip issues over the last two seasons, which immediately provides a red flag for potential suitors. Considering that he will be 30 by the time the 2021 season begins will also work against him.
To gain some perspective, amNewYork Metro asked a source with knowledge of Cohen’s camp about Realmuto possibly pursuing a $200 million deal, to which he said, “that’s an insane number.”
Especially considering it would obliterate the current trend of catching contracts — which has had its fair share of pitfalls:
Most expensive current MLB catcher deals, average annual salary
1) Buster Posey- $19.875 million
2) Yasmani Grandal- $18.25 million
3) Wilson Ramos- $9.5 million (Mets not expected to exercise 2021 option)
4) Salvador Perez- $8.75 million
5) Travis d’Arnaud- $8 million
Realmuto’s previous deal saw his average annual salary right in the middle of that list at $10 million, but he’ll likely be looking for a number higher than Posey’s — putting him over the $20 million mark easily.
But in order for Realmuto to realistically get near that $200 million number, his deal would have to be somewhere near eight years long — which would be a dangerous deal to make for a catcher.
The Giants did that with Posey when he was 26 in 2013 and his production has seen a decline for the better part of the last four years before he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. He still has two years left on his deal, too, at age 33.
Realmuto is already will already be in his 30s when his new deal begins, making a five-year contract far more reasonable for interested parties.
That makes the originally-intended $200 million more between $100 million and $125 million — the kind of number far more teams would be interested in this winter.
This article first appeared on AMNY.com