As the Winter Meetings closed last week in Las Vegas, a trade of Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto seemed near, with the Mets perhaps the most likely candidate to acquire him.
Now we know Realmuto won't become a Met, after a source confirmed the club reached agreement on a two-year, $19 million contract with free-agent catcher Wilson Ramos.
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Thus, the focus shifts to a question that has persisted for weeks: Will the Marlins or Dodgers blink first in their stalemate over Realmuto?
Sources say the teams were in contact during the Winter Meetings, but that the Dodgers were balking at the inclusion of at least one key player on whom the Marlins were insisting.
The Ramos signing isn't an encouraging development for the Marlins, who have lost the leverage of a large-market, intensely interested suitor. The Dodgers have less incentive to increase their most recent trade offer for Realmuto, especially when free-agent alternatives are available in Yasmani Grandal and Martin Maldonado.
The Dodgers remain open to bringing back Grandal on a one-year contract, one source said Sunday evening, after he rejected a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer last month. Based on the fact that Ramos' average annual value was roughly half of that amount, it's unclear if the Dodgers still value one season of Grandal at $17.9 million.
According to MLBPipeline.com, two of the Dodgers' top five prospects -- No. 2 Keibert Ruiz and No. 5 Will Smith -- are catchers. As a result, the Dodgers are interested predominantly in short-term acquisitions at the position, so as not to block the progress of Ruiz and/or Smith. Realmuto, who is under control through 2020, matches that description.
The Dodgers likely would consider moving Ruiz or Smith and right-hander Dustin May, their No. 3 prospect, in a trade for Realmuto. Thus far, however, the Marlins have been asking for substantially more in return.
The Brewers met with Ramos at the Winter Meetings, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, and continue to show interest in starting catchers. Thus, Milwaukee is a possible destination for Realmuto via trade, or for Grandal or Maldonado in free agency.
One consideration in the Realmuto-to-Milwaukee scenario: Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill and Brewers general manager David Stearns are comfortable dealing with one another, as evidenced by the trade for eventual 2018 National League MVP Award winner Christian Yelich. That deal occurred on Jan. 25, 2018, an indication that both sides are comfortable with waiting well into the New Year.
The Angels also talked with Ramos' representatives before he signed with the Mets and have shown interest in Grandal, one source confirmed Sunday. The Angels have only two catchers on their 40-man roster, Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith, and neither is proven as a starter in the Majors.
The Padres also have been linked to Realmuto this offseason, but they could begin 2019 with a tandem of Austin Hedges and prospect Francisco Mejia. Meanwhile, after reaching the agreement with Ramos, the Mets now could move Travis d'Arnaud via trade. d'Arnaud played only four games in 2018 before undergoing season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery.