Thanks to last offseason's catcher shuffle, the best backstop in baseball still calls the National League East home -- though he now plays in Philadelphia.
The Braves, meanwhile, added Travis d'Arnaud to help offset the retirement of Brian McCann, while the Nationals will bring back the same catching duo that helped them win the 2019 World Series.
Let's take a closer look at how each NL East club stacks up behind the dish.
Realmuto is not only the class of the NL East behind the plate, but he is also arguably the best all-around catcher in the Majors. The 28-year-old earned a second consecutive NL All-Star team selection in 2019 while also racking up his second straight NL Silver Slugger Award and first career NL Gold Glove Award. Realmuto posted career highs in homers (25), RBIs (83), doubles (36), runs (92), walks (41) and slugging percentage (.493) in his debut season with the Phillies. He also threw out a remarkable 43 attempted basestealers -- 16 more than any other catcher. Though it remains possible that the Phils could try to work out an extension with Realmuto at some point this offseason, the catcher is set to become a free agent following the 2020 season.
First-year Phillies manager Joe Girardi has spoken highly of Realmuto since landing the job in October, but he added that his goal will be keeping Realmuto healthy and fresh for a potential postseason run. That likely means a decent amount of starts for light-hitting backup catcher Andrew Knapp. The 28-year-old hit .213 over 74 appearances last season, and he has a .223 lifetime average and a .663 OPS across 579 career plate appearances.
The rest (in alphabetical order)
d’Arnaud will serve in the primary role that McCann and Kurt Suzuki did over the past few years, but Tyler Flowers will still be projected to make at least 70 starts behind the plate. While Flowers has not matched the offensive success he had in 2016, he remains one of the game’s top pitch framers and has a good working relationship with many members of the pitching staff. d’Arnaud rebounded with the Rays in '19, and he will now have a chance to reunite with catching coach Sal Fasano, who was his mentor during his Minor League days with the Blue Jays.
Alex Jackson, Atlanta's No. 25 prospect, serves as immediate insurance at the Triple-A level, but Shea Langeliers (No. 5 prospect) and William Contreras (No. 8 prospect) are considered the organization’s catchers of the future.
Even though Alfaro projects as the organization's catcher of the present and future, the 26-year-old will have to compete for the starting job in 2020. Free-agent pickup Francisco Cervelli, who is finalizing a one-year deal with Miami, will push Alfaro for playing time after splitting time with the Pirates and Braves in '19. The 33-year-old broke in with the Yankees in 2008, and he is a former teammate of Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter. Though Cervelli appeared in just 48 games last season, he has played more than 100 games three times since '15.
Alfaro had his ups and downs in 2019, his first season with the Marlins after being acquired as part of the Realmuto trade with the Phillies last offseason. In 130 games, Alfaro hit .262 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs, but he also had a strikeout percentage of 33.1, and he's been inconsistent defensively. Chad Wallach, who is expected to open the season at Triple-A Wichita, projects as the next in line.
Last year’s signing of Ramos locked in the veteran as the starter for 2020, while Tomas Nido will likely continue to serve as his primary backup. Ramos had a solid offensive season in 2019, hitting 14 home runs to go along with 73 RBIs and a .768 OPS, but his pitch-framing abilities are suspect and his overall defense is average at best. Nido is a strong defender behind the plate, but his bat (.514 career OPS) makes him a liability in the lineup.
Francisco Alvarez ranks as the team’s No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but the 18-year-old is likely at least three years away from making an impact in the Majors. Ali Sanchez (No. 17) posted a .648 OPS between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse last season, so while the 22-year-old appears to be ready to help defensively, his bat will need to improve if he has any hopes of seeing regular playing time in the future in New York.
Yan Gomes, re-signed to a two-year deal, and Suzuki, in the second year of a two-year contract, will make up the Nationals’ catching corps for another season. Though Gomes took over admirably when Suzuki was sidelined in the latter part of the year, the Nats are still hoping to unlock the 2018 All-Star version of Gomes who tallied a 103 OPS+ -- a number 25 points better than it was in '19. Suzuki, for his part, enjoyed one of the best offensive seasons of his 13-year career, but a nagging right elbow injury made him a bit of a liability with runners on base.