ATLANTA -- J.T. Realmuto has seen enough in his few months in Philadelphia to know that he could play here a long time.
The Phillies can make that happen by signing him to a multiyear contract extension this offseason. General manager Matt Klentak said on Wednesday it’s “reasonable to expect” they will address Realmuto’s contract before the spring.
“I wouldn’t be opposed at all to staying here for the rest of my career, you know?” Realmuto said before Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Braves at SunTrust Park. “Right now I’m going to focus on this playoff push, but once the offseason comes, I look forward to having those discussions.”
Realmuto is finishing an MVP-caliber season in his first season in Philadelphia. He entered Thursday batting .276 with 34 doubles, three triples, 25 home runs, 82 RBIs, 91 runs scored and an .822 OPS. He is one of only 13 catchers in baseball history to have 25 home runs, 80 RBIs and 90 runs scored in a season. He is 11th among position players with a 5.7 WAR, according to FanGraphs. He has thrown out 37 of 85 potential basestealers, 15 more than any other catcher. He has the fastest pop time behind the plate (1.88 seconds), and he has the second-strongest arm (average “max effort” throws at 88.4 mph). He is one of the game’s better pitch framers.
Those are the reasons the Phillies should work hard to keep Realmuto in a Phillies’ uniform, but why would he want to stay? He could roll the dice and explore free agency following the 2020 season, when he is eligible to become a free agent.
“It’s been a first-class organization all around, the way they treat my family,” he said. “The fans are tough in Philly, but they’re there. They’re passionate. They care about the game, which is the first time I’ve really experienced a fan base like that. Just this group of guys. It’s a great clubhouse. This team just jells. It’s a place I enjoy.”
But then there is arguably the biggest reason: The Phillies have the means to build and maintain a winner.
“I feel like the core is there,” Realmuto said. “We have the baseline to be really successful. I feel like this year we haven’t played as well as we could, and we’ve also run into some tough luck. We’ve got to get on the other end of that. Matt said we’ll have another busy offseason, which would be good for us. This team is trying to win. From [owner] John [Middleton] all the way down, everybody wants to win. And that’s extremely refreshing.”
The Phillies plan to have another aggressive offseason, with Houston's Gerrit Cole and Washington's Anthony Rendon potentially hitting the open market. Realmuto loves the fact that such players are even an option for Philadelphia.
“The fact that we’re in the conversation and we want to sign players like that is a very positive sign for us,” he said. “And that’s a reason why I could see myself staying here. I feel like this organization is set up to do that for years in the future.”
The Phillies will be looking for a new hitting coach in the offseason. The team dismissed John Mallee in August and replaced him with Charlie Manuel, who said he only wanted the job through the end of the year.
A hitting coach can receive too much credit or blame for an offense’s successes or failures, but a hitting coach’s and an organization’s hitting philosophies and processes matter. The Phillies should hit a lot of home runs, but they have averaged just 1.33 per game. (The average is 1.40 per game.) Philadelphia averaged 1.3 homers per game under Mallee, and has averaged 1.6 under Manuel.
“I feel like they have a pretty good feel for what they’re looking for,” Realmuto said about the team’s next hitting coach. “As long as we’re getting our information, and we have a voice that can steer us in the right direction and be simple. A hitting coach’s job is pretty tough, because there are 12 different hitters working on 12 different things. So for me, as long as a guy can come in and keep things simple and give you confidence when you’re walking up to the plate, that’s really all this group needs.”
Right now Realmuto is hoping the Phillies find a way to sneak into the second National League Wild Card berth, but whether they do or don’t, the upcoming offseason is a critical one. It could start with Realmuto. It could end with Cole or Rendon.
“Hopefully there’s lots of fireworks,” Realmuto said.