It's not very often that a catcher of J.T. Realmuto's caliber enters the free-agent market. He is widely considered to be the best all-around backstop in baseball, having captured both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards in 2019 and then recorded his best offensive season to date (123 OPS+, 11 homers in 195 plate appearances) in '20. Plus, no one controls the running game as well as Realmuto, who routinely tops catchers in Statcast's pop time and average arm strength metrics.
Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the star catcher, who turns 30 in March. Realmuto will be tied to Draft-pick compensation after opting not to accept the Phillies' $18.9 million qualifying offer.
Realmuto to D.C.? How would the market be impacted?
Nov. 26: MLB.com's Thomas Harrigan considers what might happen to the market for catchers this offseason should Realmuto ink a contract with the Nationals. Among possible dominos to fall: The market for catcher James McCann could heat up, pressure may mount on the team losing Realmuto -- the Phillies -- and the Cubs could become ideal trade partners with Philadelphia.
Report: Mets targeting multiple big names
Nov. 24: On the day the Braves made another free-agent signing, agreeing with starter Charlie Morton, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Mets are looking to be aggressive this offseason, too. According to Olney's source, the Mets are looking to acquire multiple of the "big four" this offseason -- identified by Olney as Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, George Springer and Francisco Lindor.
Interestingly, DJ LeMahieu wasn't among the players Olney mentioned. There's been some speculation that the Mets could pursue the second baseman after Robinson Canó was suspended for 162 games without pay, leaving the team with a hole at the keystone and trimming $20.25 million from the 2021 payroll.
The Mets are expected to increase payroll this offseason under new owner Steve Cohen, and they have already been linked to Lindor trade chatter.
Nationals could pursue Realmuto
Nov. 18: The Phillies want to bring back Realmuto after giving up top pitching prospect Sixto Sánchez to get him two offseasons ago, but MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports in the latest episode of the Big Time Baseball podcast that the team is “discouraged” about its chances of keeping the catcher.
While it has been assumed that Philadelphia would get significant competition from the Mets for the 29-year-old, another National League East club could make a push as well, as Heyman has heard the Nationals are a potential suitor.
This isn’t the first time Washington has been linked to Realmuto. Earlier this month, MLB Network insider and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal told colleague Jayson Stark on the Starkville podcast that he had talked to an MLB executive who predicted that the backstop would land with the Nats. When Realmuto was on the block two years ago, Washington was one of the teams that engaged in trade talks with the Marlins.
The Nationals have veteran catcher Yan Gomes under contract for $6 million in 2021, but at age 33, he is better suited for a backup role. Realmuto would give Washington's roster more balance after the club relied heavily on Juan Soto and Trea Turner for offense in 2020.
If the Nationals do sign Realmuto, it would not only deal a significant blow to a division rival but also serve as a measure of revenge after the Phillies lured Bryce Harper away from Washington prior to the 2019 season.
Mets prioritizing other free agents over Realmuto?
Nov. 12: It has been presumed that the Mets would have Realmuto at the top of their wish list this offseason, but SNY's Andy Martino wrote Thursday that the team appears to be focused more on center fielder George Springer and Trevor Bauer, two other big-ticket free agents.
Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that free-agent catcher Yadier Molina has drawn interest from both the Mets and Yankees, as well as 3-4 other teams -- all in addition to the Cardinals. MLB.com's David Adler broke down what the Mets' interest in Molina could mean for Realmuto's market. More >
Where do the experts see Realmuto going?
Nov. 11: Where will Realmuto sign if he declines the Phillies' one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer by Wednesday's 5 p.m. ET deadline, as is widely expected? MLB.com's Alyson Footer, Mark Feinsand, Todd Zolecki and Anthony DiComo came together to debate that very topic, and they all placed their chips on one club: the Mets, who just introduced their new owner, Steve Cohen, on Tuesday. The panel expects Cohen to make a big splash and possibly make Realmuto the highest-paid catcher in MLB history. More >
New ownership, new star catcher?
Nov. 6: With Steve Cohen finalizing his purchase of the Mets, the perception is that the club will be in the mix for some big-ticket free agents. With a need at catcher, what better free agent signing than Realmuto to send a message to the fanbase, asks MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. More >
Execs pick Realmuto as No. 1 FA
Nov. 4: MLB executives think Realmuto is the best free agent available this offseason.
In an MLB.com poll of 21 executives around the Majors, 10 picked Realmuto as the No. 1 free agent, compared to six votes for Trevor Bauer, four votes for George Springer and one vote for DJ LeMahieu.
One National League executive told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, "The simple fact is that [Realmuto will] be the only free agent who is probably the best player at his position. And having a top-tier catcher is a big advantage because there are so few of them across the league."
Another NL executive said that Realmuto gets the vote because, "Although I'm tempted to say Bauer, I think Realmuto is the one impact-up-the-middle player this year that could really take someone over the top." More >
New York battle brewing for Realmuto?
Nov. 3: Realmuto is one of the most coveted free agents in this offseason's class, with multiple big-market teams expected to be in on the bidding.
The Phillies will likely make re-signing Realmuto a priority after trading right-hander Sixto Sánchez in a package for the backstop two offseasons ago.
The Mets are expected to be one of the top suitors for Realmuto as well, with new owner Steve Cohen looking to make an immediate splash, but they might not be alone in New York.
Former Mets general manager and current MLB Network Radio analyst Steve Phillips predicts that the Yankees will also get involved.
The same goes for former GM Jim Bowden, who places the Yankees among the best fits for Realmuto in his article for The Athletic (subscription required).
The Bronx Bombers have catcher Gary Sánchez under control for two more years, but he’s coming off a season in which he hit just .147/.253/.365 with 64 strikeouts in 178 plate appearances. He ceded playing time to Kyle Higashioka in the postseason, starting only two of New York’s seven playoff games. Sánchez, 27, is a career .173 hitter with a .608 OPS over 120 PAs in his postseason career.
With Cohen purchase approved, are Mets the favorite to land Realmuto?
Nov. 1: Major League Baseball owners and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both approved the Mets’ sale from the Wilpon family to Steve Cohen on Friday, and Cohen is expected to assume ownership by mid-November. After paying a record $2.4 billion to buy the Mets, Cohen will now come in as one of MLB's wealthiest team owners.
So does Cohen's arrival make the Mets the top horse in the sweepstakes for Realmuto? New York now figures to be "one of the few buyers without major limitations in this market," writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince, and the club has a big opening at catcher after buying out Wilson Ramos' contract and letting him enter free agency. Castrovince predicts that the Mets will indeed sign Realmuto, giving them a player who can give them a major boost both offensively and defensively. More >
Phillies not expected to be aggressive early in free agency
Oct. 30: Re-signing J.T. Realmuto may be an offseason priority for the Phillies, but the club is unlikely to come to a quick resolution with the free-agent catcher. According to Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail indicated that he doesn’t expect to make any major moves in free agency until later in the process.
It’s unclear how that will impact Philadelphia’s chances of retaining Realmuto, who is one of the top free agents on the market.
The first order of business for the Phillies will be making a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to Realmuto, which he is likely to reject.
Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, Realmuto is seeking a record-breaking contract for a catcher in the $200 million range, a number the Phillies aren’t interested in approaching. Privately, the club is betting no other team will, either.
Can Phillies keep Realmuto?
Oct. 26: Phillies managing partner John Middleton told reporters earlier this month that he only consented to the February 2019 trade that sent impressive rookie pitcher Sixto Sánchez to the Marlins in exchange for Realmuto if Philadelphia could be certain that they could sign the star catcher to a long-term extension. Well, that extension hasn't happened to this point, and now Realmuto is set to enter the free-agent market following the World Series. The Phillies will have plenty of competition when he gets there.
Certainly the Phillies figure to be one of the major players in the Realmuto sweepstakes, and the Philadelphia Inquirer's Scott Lauber estimates the club has roughly $35 million to $41 million to spend in the free-agent market this winter. But MLB.com's Mark Feinsand notes that the Yankees could quickly become major players if they decide to move on from catcher Gary Sánchez (either via non-tender or trade), and the Mets (with presumptive new owner Steve Cohen) could make it a New York derby for Realmuto if they decline Wilson Ramos' $10 million option, as expected.
Feinsand lists the Cardinals (should Yadier Molina move on in free agency), Angels and Nationals as three other clubs to keep an eye on -- and that list could grow, considering that Realmuto may well be the best player in this year's free-agent market. If the Phillies want to keep enjoying Realmuto's play for years to come, they may want to prepare themselves for a bidding war.