MLB Trade Rumors: “Extension talks between the Phillies and star catcher J.T. Realmuto have been slow to progress. The 28-year-old (29 next week) lost an arbitration hearing against the Phils last month that set his 2020 salary at $10MM, although Realmuto made clear early in the arb process that he wouldn’t harbor any hard feelings regardless of the eventual hearing’s outcome.
If there’s a reason that talks have moved slowly, then, it could simply be the two-time All-Star’s asking price; MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported on the latest edition of the Big Time Baseball podcast that Realmuto’s camp has been seeking to top Buster Posey in terms of overall guarantee, adding that Paul Goldschmidt’s extension with the Cardinals has been another talking point (audio link, with Realmuto talk beginning around the 44-minute mark).
There’s a fair bit to unpack there. Back in 2013, Posey signed an eight-year, $159MM extension that was tacked onto his existing one-year, $8MM deal with which he’d avoided arbitration. Somewhat notably, that deal was negotiated by CAA’s Jeff Berry, who also represents Realmuto. Last spring, Goldschmidt signed a five-year, $130MM contract extension, coming out to $26MM per year. A six-year deal at Goldschmidt’s annual rate would put Realmuto just shy of Posey’s guarantee. Topping Goldschmidt’s annual rate by any more than $500K over a six-year term would take Realmuto past Posey in terms of overall guarantee.”
We’ve got no real baseball so let’s talk contracts. JT Realmuto should be priority number 1 for the Phillies this season. Letting him test free agency would be a disaster for the future of this ball club. Over the last four seasons Realmuto is batting .283 with an on base % of .335, a WAR of 17.6 to go along with back to back all-star appearances. Not to mention he is a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger. He has made himself one of the top catchers in the league and he’s only 28. His caught stealing % was top in the MLB last season at 46.7%, that is 12.4% higher than the next best catcher.
Now it comes down to how comfortable the Phillies are with paying JT. With the lack of progress so far and the fact they went to arbitration over $2 million, it’s fair to assume both sides are far apart still. It sounds like the Phillies ownership wants to avoid going over the luxury tax at all costs. Currently the Phillies have a little over $5 million in luxury tax space. Being that close you’d assume they want to wait for 2021 when they will see a huge amount of payroll relief.
Jake Arrieta’s 3 year/$75 million contract will come off the books and as it stands now the Phillies will enter 2021 with nearly $78 million in luxury tax space. So even if Philadelphia were to offer JT a Goldschmidt level contract at around $26 million per year, they’d still have an addition $52 million between them and the tax to sign other free agents.
This season (whenever it starts) needs to be based around two thoughts. First, make a serious run at a wildcard spot. I still believe the East is going to be extremely tough to win but a wildcard is definitely up for grabs. And second, locking up one of your core players. Good catchers are hard to come by, great ones rarely come around. JT is trending to great. Do what needs to be done before you no longer have him under club control. Letting him test free agency would guarantee you will either lose him or over pay for him. If it’s dollars and cents they Phillies are concerned about, you pull the trigger now.