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Realmuto homers, then addresses future

@ToddZolecki
July 26, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- J.T. Realmuto swore he could not hear the fans behind Ashburn Alley chanting “Sign J.T.!” after he smashed a three-run homer off the batter’s eye in the seventh inning of Saturday's game at Citizens Bank Park. No word if he noticed the large “Sign J.T.!” banner hung outside

PHILADELPHIA -- J.T. Realmuto swore he could not hear the fans behind Ashburn Alley chanting “Sign J.T.!” after he smashed a three-run homer off the batter’s eye in the seventh inning of Saturday's game at Citizens Bank Park.

No word if he noticed the large “Sign J.T.!” banner hung outside the players’ entrance before Opening Day on Friday. But pressure to sign Realmuto to a contract extension is building, particularly from teammate Bryce Harper, who wore a Realmuto T-shirt the first few days of Summer Camp and said it would be “terrible and sad” if the Phillies did not keep him.

Last week, Harper made a point of mentioning that the 13-year contract he signed with the Phillies lowered the average annual value of the deal to $25.4 million, allowing the team to stay below the luxury tax to sign or keep its best players. Harper emphasized his feelings one more time on Saturday. After he touched home plate following Realmuto’s homer, he made an exaggerated “signing a check” gesture to nobody in particular.

Realmuto’s future with the Phillies remains a hot topic of conversation, especially following Mookie Betts' 12-year, $365 million contract extension this week with the Dodgers. A reporter asked Realmuto following Saturday’s 7-1 victory over the Marlins if he still anticipated talking to the Phillies about an extension or going to free agency.

“To be honest, I’m focused on the season at this point,” Realmuto said. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen. Nothing has happened thus far. All I can do is go out and focus on the season and then try to make this team as good as I can and help this team win ballgames.”

But Realmuto loved the fact that Betts got paid, even if the Players Association values the deal at $306,657,882 because of heavy deferrals, as has been reported. Realmuto has said for months that he believes elite players in baseball will continue to be paid like elite players, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the financial landscape of baseball.

The Phillies, meanwhile, think differently. They believe the market has changed.

What does Betts deal mean for Realmuto?

“It was definitely positive to see for baseball, knowing that teams still do have that money,” Realmuto said about the Betts deal. “I still think that the teams at the top of the market are going to be willing to spend money. Some teams are going to take advantage of the situation, where half or even three quarters of the league might not be as interested in spending as much money. Other teams are really going to go for it and push for those players. It was definitely good to see him get what he deserves.”

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said this week, perhaps referring to the deferrals in Betts’ deal: “I'm always careful not to weigh in on another team's player or contract, but I will say that it appears to me that it was a very creative and collaborative solution that really reflects the uniqueness of 2020.”

But now that Betts is off the board, Realmuto becomes arguably the best player who can be available in the free-agent market this winter. Betts’ 22.4 WAR over the past three seasons (2017-19) ranks second behind Mike Trout (25.2), according to FanGraphs. Realmuto’s 15.0 WAR over the past three seasons is 13th.

Price is absent
Phillies pitching coach Bryan Price was not with the team Saturday. Phillies manager Joe Girardi said “it’s a medical issue that I can't discuss.” He added that nobody else on the team missed Saturday’s game.

Didi does it
Didi Gregorius became the first shortstop in franchise history to homer in each of the team’s first two games of a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Gregorius homered in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 14-15, 2018.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .