MIAMI -- After months of exploring countless trade scenarios with more than a dozen teams, the Marlins' best fit for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto turned out to be the division-rival Phillies.On Thursday, the clubs announced a deal that sent Realmuto to Philadelphia for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez,
MIAMI -- After months of exploring countless trade scenarios with more than a dozen teams, the Marlins' best fit for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto turned out to be the division-rival Phillies.
On Thursday, the clubs announced a deal that sent Realmuto to Philadelphia for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, Minor League left-hander Will Stewart and $250,000 international bonus pool money.
The deal brings closure to one of the most talked about potential trade pieces in years. The entire offseason was consumed with where Realmuto may wind up, and he was finally dealt six days before pitcher and catcher workouts begin for the Marlins.
"Ultimately, as the talks intensified with Philadelphia, we saw the opportunity to turn two years of control of J.T. Realmuto to over 17 years of control, when you think about the five years of Jorge Alfaro, the two front-line starting pitchers in Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said in a conference call. "And, on top of that, we added to our international bonus pool, in an area we will continue to focus and try to add talent to this organization."
With Spring Training beginning in less than a week, there was urgency to complete a deal. Miami also was motivated to get something done before FanFest, which will be from 3-7 p.m. ET on Saturday at Marlins Park.
All members of the 40-man roster are required to attend FanFest, as are the Minor Leaguers in this week's Captain's Camp. So Alfaro, Sanchez and Stewart are expected to be at Marlins Park on Saturday. (Outfield prospect Victor Victor Mesa is tending to a personal matter and will not be able to attend FanFest. The 22-year-old remains scheduled to report for full-squad workouts on Feb. 18.)
"There was no deadline of any sort that we put on trading J.T. Realmuto," Hill said. "I've been up front at the beginning of the offseason that we didn't have to trade him. We still had control of him for the next two years. Had we gotten to Spring Training, he would have done his job and done what he's done since the day we drafted him back in 2010."
With the deal is done ahead of camp, Alfaro will be able to immediately work with the Miami pitchers.
"The fact that we were able to bring a catcher back just makes the deal that much better in our eyes," Hill said. "We feel like we got a very talented young catcher, and given the timing of this, he gets to start at the beginning of Spring Training and develop that relationship and create the bonds that will allow him to be the best catcher for a very talented, young pitching rotation."
Alfaro, 25, caught 104 games for the Phillies in 2018, hitting 10 home runs while driving in 37 to go with a .262 batting average. He replaces Realmuto as Miami's starting catcher, while Sanchez projects to start off at Double-A Jacksonville and Stewart at Class A Advanced Jupiter.
The trade also removes the final major core piece of its 2017 squad. Last offseason, the club traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.
In return, the Marlins infuse more young talent into an improved farm system.
Sanchez, a 20-year-old right-hander who is rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 27 overall prospect, becomes Miami's top-ranked prospect.
A native of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, Sanchez was a 2015 international free-agent signee of the Phillies.
The hard-throwing right-hander was a Florida State League All-Star in 2018, posting a 4-3 record with a 2.51 ERA in 46 2/3 innings at Class A Advanced Clearwater. Sanchez's season was cut short due to right elbow inflammation, and he did not participate in the Arizona Fall League due to a sore collarbone.
Sanchez, who is not being added to the 40-man roster, is healthy and ready to go for the start of Spring Training. He will be in Minor League camp at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
"He's 20 years old. He throws 100 mph," Hill said. "So there is going to be inherent risk with everyone who throws the ball that hard. But when it was all said and done, we were extremely comfortable with his medicals. We couldn't be happier to add that type of talent to our pitching stable."
Realmuto, who turns 28 next month, was an All-Star for the first time in 2018. In a breakthrough season, he batted .277 and established career highs in home runs (21) and RBIs (74) on a club that lost 98 games.
Eligible for free agency after the 2020 season, Realmuto signed for $5.9 million in 2019 to avoid arbitration in his second year of eligibility.
The Marlins entered the offseason with the hope of signing arguably the Majors' best catcher to an extension. But shortly after the World Series ended, Realmuto's agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, publicly stated that his client was not interested and hoped to be traded.
In the past couple of weeks, trade talks heated up with a handful of clubs. Most recently, the Reds and Padres were among the most aggressive, with the Dodgers, Rays and Braves in the mix.
Stewart, 21, is from Huntsville, Ala., and was a 20th-rounder of the Phillies in 2015. Last season, he went 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts, with 90 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings.
"There were a number of suitors that surfaced over the course of the offseason," Hill said. "Really, we just entertained deals, and talked with a number of different teams, pretty much all offseason. We never really lowered, in our minds, what we felt was fair value for J.T."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.