PHILADELPHIA -- Let's try to answer three questions on the minds of Phillies fans.
1. Will the Phillies re-sign J.T. Realmuto?
They might be considered a slight favorite, although Thursday’s report from FanSided that the Braves are “circling” Realmuto could give them pause.
The Phillies have a couple of things going for them. First and foremost, they have a need. Nobody needs Realmuto more than they do. Second, Dave Dombrowski is calling the shots. If the Phils and Realmuto come close to a deal, he should be able to convince ownership to extend itself a little further to cinch it.
It helps that the market is setting itself. George Springer just agreed to a six-year, $150 million contract with the Blue Jays ($25 million per season) and the Yankees just re-signed DJ LeMahieu to a six-year, $90 million deal ($15 million per season). Springer and LeMahieu were considered two of the four elite free-agent position players on the market, alongside Realmuto and Marcell Ozuna. For comparison’s sake, Springer had a 16.2 bWAR and a 15.8 fWAR the past four seasons. Realmuto had a 14.7 bWAR and a 16.7 fWAR, while LeMahieu had a 14.7 bWAR and a 11.9 fWAR. Realmuto’s deal probably will slot somewhere between Springer and LeMahieu.
The Phillies have a five-year, $100 million-plus offer on the table for Realmuto. They almost certainly will need to go higher. Joe Mauer holds the record average annual value for a catcher at $23 million per season. If their offer is, say, $110 million, is there any way they would not bump it to $120 million so Realmuto can set the new mark, something which is important to him?
It is difficult to believe the Phillies would get that close and walk away over a few million.
But who are they competing against anyway? FanSided not only mentioned the Braves, but also said West Coast teams have expressed interest. The Nationals continue to be mentioned as a possibility. If Realmuto signs with the Braves or Nationals, there would be plenty of upset Phillies players heading to Clearwater, Fla., for Spring Training. It is one thing to lose Realmuto, which nobody wants. It is something entirely different to lose him to a National League East rival.
Just imagine facing Realmuto and Sixto Sánchez multiple times over the next several seasons? Yikes. It is why the bet here is that Realmuto will return to Philadelphia.
2. What about Didi?
It would not shock anybody if the Phillies re-signed both Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. But if Realmuto signs elsewhere, they almost have to bring back Gregorius. Their offense can not afford to lose both.
Gregorius kept a connection with Philly this offseason. He sent gift bags to kids at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia during the holidays. It does not mean Gregorius will re-sign with the Phillies, but it does mean the city is on his mind.
Gregorius signed a one-year, $14 million contract to come to Philadelphia in December 2019. He could return on another one-year deal. He is competing for a landing spot alongside free-agent shortstops Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien, which helps the Phils. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, but the trio is comparable. The Phillies should get one of them.
3. They are getting more pitching help, right?
Dombrowski said last week that they plan to acquire more pitching before or during Spring Training -- both in the rotation and the bullpen.
They need to improve their depth in both areas.
Archie Bradley was a solid pickup on a one-year, $6 million contract, but both left-hander José Alvarado and right-hander Sam Coonrod, whom the Phillies acquired in trades, are far from sure things. Enough free-agent relief pitchers remain that Dombrowski and Co. should find a few solid pieces. Another free-agent starter or two would help as well. Currently, the Phillies have Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard as the team’s Nos. 4 and 5 starters. Behind them are Ranger Suárez, Cole Irvin, Ramón Rosso, Adonis Medina and Damon Jones. They don’t want to be caught flat footed again.