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Middleton: Re-signing Realmuto No. 1 priority

@ToddZolecki
October 3, 2020

PHILADELPHIA – Phillies managing partner John Middleton expressed his concerns about the J.T. Realmuto trade in February 2019, but not because he did not want Realmuto. He wanted him. But Middleton worried about trading top pitching prospect Sixto Sánchez to the Marlins and not signing Realmuto to a multiyear extension

PHILADELPHIA – Phillies managing partner John Middleton expressed his concerns about the J.T. Realmuto trade in February 2019, but not because he did not want Realmuto.

He wanted him. But Middleton worried about trading top pitching prospect Sixto Sánchez to the Marlins and not signing Realmuto to a multiyear extension on the spot, knowing the Phillies were not one piece from winning the World Series and that Realmuto could become a free agent following the 2020 season. In the end, however, Middleton quashed his concerns.

Why?

“Because the baseball people thought they could get the extension,” Middleton said Saturday evening after the Phillies announced Matt Klentak will not return as general manager.

Klentak and assistant general manager Ned Rice, who has been elevated to interim general manager, were confident they had enough time and financial strength to sign Realmuto before he came close to free agency.

But the Phillies and Realmuto are nowhere close to an agreement and Realmuto will become a free agent after the World Series. Realmuto could be seeking $200 million, which is far more than the Phillies seem willing to spend. Middleton did not sound optimistic Saturday about their chances to re-sign him this winter, although he said it is their No. 1 priority.

“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans?” Middleton said. “Because if you do, you know something that I don't. So I have no idea what we're going to be allowed. Obviously, that will determine our revenues, and revenues determine what you can do and what you can't do.”

It would be a gut punch for the Phillies if Realmuto signs elsewhere this winter, especially as Sánchez emerges as a star with Miami.

But Middleton said it is not one of the reasons why he made the change at GM.

“I don't hold that against Matt at all,” he said.

But he detailed his concerns at the time.

“My position was I'd be willing to trade Sixto as long as you extend J.T.,” Middleton said. “And if you don't extend J.T., I wouldn't trade Sixto. Because we weren't at a point in the development of the team where the benefits that we were getting matched what we were giving up. To give you a completely similar kind of trade, but in an entirely different set of circumstances: When Ruben [Amaro Jr.] traded for Cliff Lee in 2009, he traded away a bunch of guys, and very importantly Carlos Carrasco, for Cliff who had basically had a year and a half on his deal.

"When David [Montgomery], Ruben and I sat down and talked about it, we all came to the conclusion that we're the defending World Series champions. We're pretty much the best team in the National League … If we can get this guy, one of the great pitchers in baseball, it not only gives us a much, much better chance of winning the pennant and getting back to the World Series, it gives us a much better chance of winning the World Series. So we're going to give up these players because we are in win-now mode and this guy is a huge difference maker.”

The Phillies were not in that spot when they traded for Realmuto.

“The point I made is, we need J.T. now, but we really need J.T. in three, four, five, six years from now and if all we get for him is two years, that's not the same thing as two years of Cliff Lee in 2009,” Middleton said. “We were a little early in the development to make that kind of a play.”

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