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Inbox: Will Phillies likely re-sign Realmuto?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers fans' questions
@ToddZolecki
October 18, 2020

What are the chances that we will re-sign J.T. Realmuto? -- @rodmanf The Phillies are not optimistic. The most recent comments from managing partner John Middleton and former general manager Matt Klentak indicate as much. There is credible buzz that Realmuto is seeking a deal in the $200 million range.

What are the chances that we will re-sign J.T. Realmuto?
-- @rodmanf

The Phillies are not optimistic. The most recent comments from managing partner John Middleton and former general manager Matt Klentak indicate as much.

There is credible buzz that Realmuto is seeking a deal in the $200 million range. There is no reason to think the Phillies would go there. But they are betting that nobody else does, either. Is it a risk to think that way? Of course. Realmuto is not only the best catcher in baseball; he is one of the best overall players in the game. (It’s why they sent Sixto Sánchez to the Marlins in February 2019 to get him.)

Realmuto’s 16.7 WAR from 2017-20 ranks 12th among position players, according to FanGraphs. He can hit, he can run, and he is brilliant behind the plate. The Phillies have no full-time replacement internally if he leaves. No catcher compares to him in the upcoming free-agent market, either. Arguably, the next-best catcher available is James McCann of the White Sox.

So then why not just meet Realmuto’s asking price, or at least come close? There are a few reasons. Revenues are down across baseball because of the pandemic, which is expected to affect spending. The Phillies are no exception. They have multiple other holes to fill on their roster, including shortstop, center field (unless they bring back Odúbel Herrera), the rotation and bullpen. The more money they spend on Realmuto, the less they will have to solve the rest of their problems. It is the predicament of an organization that has not drafted or developed talent well enough over the past few years.

Realmuto turns 30 in March. The Athletic wrote a story last week about the aging curve of catchers. Even elite backstops typically see a decline in peak performance following their age-31 season. If Realmuto follows the historical trend -- he is a tremendous athlete, so if anybody is the exception to the rule, it is probably him -- he could see a dip following his 2022 season. It is why the article estimated Realmuto’s value at four years and $96 million ($24 million average annual value) or six years and $128 million ($21.3 million annually).

Now, this does not mean the Phillies should just throw up their hands and walk away. They need Realmuto behind the plate next season. Bryce Harper knows this. Everybody knows this. So the Phillies need to try. Really, truly try. They need to stay in the game. While it only takes one team to meet Realmuto’s asking price, Philadelphia should be positioned to strike if that team does not emerge.

Can they afford to sign both J.T. and Didi Gregorius?
-- @photodw

It is difficult to envision the Phillies signing both Realmuto and Gregorius to multiyear contracts, unless they get creative.

Philadelphia probably cannot have it all, which is why it is so important to make better decisions than it has the past few years. The club cannot continue to miss the postseason during the prime years of Harper, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, etc.

What do you think the approach would be if Didi walks? Would Bryson Stott get a long look for the starting shortstop job, in the same manner that Alec Bohm did for 3B?
-- @zestyzach

It is more likely that Jean Segura or Scott Kingery opens the season at shortstop, or the Phillies find somebody from outside the organization. The A’s Marcus Semien or the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons, perhaps? Stott played 44 games for Class A Short Season Williamsport in 2019, before joining the the Phils’ 60-man player pool in Allentown, Pa., this summer. It is hard to imagine him making the jump to an everyday role in the big leagues in ‘21. Bohm at least played 103 games last season with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading before he joined the Phillies in August.

How are they going to replace catcher, shortstop, two starting pitchers and the entire bullpen in one offseason?
-- @diggitydek

The Phillies need a Pat Gillick-like offseason to make the postseason next year. It is possible. But the better question might be: Can they do it with the same practices and processes in place? Philadelphia has made no public comments since Klentak’s demotion earlier this month. Is anything going to be different moving forward under interim general manager Ned Rice, who Middleton said could be in the role through next season?

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