MIAMI -- With the World Series now over, the Hot Stove season is set to begin. For the Marlins, their most pressing question is what's next for J.T. Realmuto?
The All-Star catcher is the face of their franchise, but since Realmuto isn't signed long term, he likely will be the subject of plenty of trade rumors.
Repeatedly, the Marlins have stated they hope to sign Realmuto to a contract extension, but whether the 27-year-old is agreeable remains to be seen.
"I think J.T. knows how we feel about him," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said in early October. "He had a tremendous season, an All-Star season. It's great to see his talent finally being recognized throughout the industry. As I've said consistently, we want him to be a part of what we're doing, in the long term."
About the only certainty with Realmuto right now is he has been selected to the MLB squad that will play in the Japan All-Star Series from Nov. 8-15. That team will be managed by Marlins skipper Don Mattingly, and Miami's third-base coach, Fredi Gonzalez, is on the staff.
The MLB team was announced on Monday morning, the day after the Red Sox closed out the Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series.
Representing MLB in Japan is another honor for Realmuto, who is arguably the game's best catcher. In 2018, he batted .277 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs.
Realmuto will be entering his second season of arbitration after making $2.9 million this year. He isn't eligible for free agency until 2021, so his trade value remains high right now. But will the Marlins deal him, if they can't sign him?
MLB.com breaks down the three most likely scenarios the Marlins face with Realmuto.
Sign him: Convincing Realmuto to stay will come at a high price, or more specifically, about $20 million a season. Buster Posey of the Giants tops all catchers with an average annual value of just over $22 million. Russell Martin of the Blue Jays and St. Louis' Yadier Molina are next at $20 million. Are the Marlins willing to offer a package with an annual value of at least $20 million for Realmuto?
And for Realmuto, will it be more about money or the opportunity to win? Coming off a 63-98 season, the Marlins are at least a couple of seasons away from seriously contending.
Trade him: If they can't sign him, it opens speculation the Marlins will trade their All-Star catcher. The organization generally listens to offers on all players, because you never know what another club may be willing to offer. In 2018, Realmuto drew attention from the Nationals, Astros, Brewers and Braves. If Miami makes him available, the list would certainly grow. The Dodgers certainly have the prospects to be in the mix, and so do the Yankees, should they decide Gary Sanchez isn't the answer behind the plate.
Go year to year: Of the three options, this might actually be what the Marlins end up doing, which is nothing. The organization feels no urgency to trade Realmuto, even if an extension isn't reached. Even if his arbitration figure jumps to $7 million in 2019, that would be a bargain. So the Marlins may wind up holding on to their catcher for as long as possible. They could keep exploring trade options up until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, or even the offseason following next season. Obviously, the longer they wait, the lower the trade value will be. But Miami then must ask, is Realmuto more valuable to them, especially at an affordable cost? And by '21, Will Banfield, their Round B Competitive Balance pick in the '18 MLB Draft, will be closer to being big league ready.