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Catcher's market flying under Deadline radar?

Marlins' Realmuto, Rays' Ramos could be intriguing pieces for contenders
MLB.com @feinsand

While much of the Trade Deadline chatter has focused on Manny Machado, the Orioles' shortstop is far from the only All-Star who could be on the move in the coming weeks.

Two All-Star catchers -- the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto and the Rays' Wilson Ramos -- have drawn interest from a number of contenders looking to make improvements behind the plate before July 31.

While much of the Trade Deadline chatter has focused on Manny Machado, the Orioles' shortstop is far from the only All-Star who could be on the move in the coming weeks.

Two All-Star catchers -- the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto and the Rays' Wilson Ramos -- have drawn interest from a number of contenders looking to make improvements behind the plate before July 31.

Realmuto is considered by many to be the best catcher in the game, and while that's not typically a piece teams would be looking to move, the Marlins are in the beginning stages of a rebuild following the offseason trades that saw Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon shipped out of Miami.

"The Marlins would be crazy not to trade him now," said one baseball insider. "You've got several contenders looking for catching and he's one of the best in the league."

According to a source, the Marlins have considered offering a contract extension to Realmuto rather than trading him, though that assumes the catcher would want to sign a long-term deal with a team in transition. Miami could also wait until the offseason to shop Realmuto, who would certainly be a hot commodity.

"I would think Realmuto would actually fetch more in the offseason when the Marlins could draw more buyers and competition," a second source said.

Realmuto is hitting .317/.368/.551 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 66 games this season, earning his first All-Star selection. He leads all big league catchers in average and OPS (.919).

It's not surprising that the Marlins would want to lock up the 27-year-old, but a source said Realmuto was very dispirited by the offseason fire sale and would welcome a change of scenery.

Realmuto is earning $2.9 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for the next two years, keeping him under club control through his age-29 season in 2020. If Miami is unable to sign him to an extension, the club could likely bring in a nice haul of prospects for the All-Star.

"Realmuto is the best package of tools, performance, age and control," one big league scout said. "There's a low probability he moves, in my opinion. The price will just be too high."

The Marlins could try to package Realmuto with one or more of their relievers -- Kyle Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley have drawn interest from several clubs -- though that would only increase the price.

"Who is realistically going to do that?" the scout said. "I think Realmuto winds up staying."

Another catcher who could be on the move is Ramos, who will start for the American League on Tuesday night in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. An All-Star in two of the past three seasons, Ramos is hitting .295/.345/.484 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs this season, earning his first start in the Midsummer Classic.

The Rays have heated up to pull within 9 1/2 games of an AL Wild Card spot, though they still figure to be sellers if they have a chance to unload an expiring contract for a prospect or two. Ramos is in the second year of a two-year, $12.5 million deal that is paying him $8.5 million this season. He can also earn up to $750,000 in bonuses based on plate appearances.

A third trade candidate could be Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates, who is owed about $5 million for the rest of this season and is set to earn $11.5 million in 2019. Cervelli is having a strong season at the plate (.849 OPS) and ranks third in fWAR among all catchers, making him an attractive option.

One of the biggest hitches in dealing for a catcher in July is behind the plate, where the player would be handed the task of learning a new pitching staff on the fly in the middle of a pennant race.

"The defensive implications and lack of familiarity with a pitching staff make these trades a little more complex on the buyer's side," a second scout said. "Especially with how a catcher's defense is evaluated and the measured impact it can have on a pitching staff."

Which teams might be in the market to deal for one of the two All-Star catchers? Let's break it down:

Astros
Brian McCann is out until mid-August following right knee surgery, though at 34, it remains to be seen how the knee will impact his performance when he returns. McCann is in the final year of his five-year, $85 million contract (the Astros hold a $15 million option for 2019 with no buyout), so acquiring a catcher with additional control (Realmuto, for instance) makes sense for Houston.

Red Sox
Christian Vazquez's broken right pinkie required surgery that will sideline him for six to eight weeks, leaving a hole in Boston's otherwise solid lineup. Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart are filling in during Vazquez's DL stint, but the Red Sox could look for a rental (Ramos?) to help fend off the Yankees in the AL East. Boston's .608 OPS from the catcher position ranks 27th in the Majors.

Nationals
Washington ranks last in the Majors with a .550 OPS from its catchers, so an upgrade is certainly in the cards. Without an answer going forward, it's possible the Nats could deal for a catcher with control beyond this season. They aren't willing to part with the prospects to get Realmuto, but could Cervelli be an option? Taking on his 2019 salary could be the determining factor.

Phillies
Jorge Alfaro is their catcher of the future, but the Phils haven't gotten much offense from the spot this season, their .692 OPS from catchers ranking 27th. The Marlins might be hesitant to deal Realmuto within the NL East, though Ramos could be a good fit for the remainder of 2018. If Philly is unable to add a big bat such as Machado, it could be a creative way to add some offense.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Wilson Ramos, J.T. Realmuto