J.T. Realmuto, a two-time All-Star and the most coveted catcher available in free agency, doesn’t appear particularly close to signing. Perhaps that’s to be expected with teams bleeding from recent revenue losses and the looming possibility of a work stoppage with MLB’s current CBA set to expire after next season. Still, even with no Winter Meetings and uncertainty surrounding Opening Day (owners are advocating for another abbreviated season amid COVID, a suggestion players have predictably balked at), it’s hard not to notice the agonizingly slow pace of free agency with Realmuto, DJ LeMahieu, George Springer and Trevor Bauer all waiting for their respective markets to develop.
It was believed Philadelphia had a standing offer out to Realmuto, who the Phillies acquired in a 2019 trade with division-rival Miami, though that initial report from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was refuted Tuesday by John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, who contends the Phillies have yet to extend an official offer. Clark confirms the Phillies have held “conversations” with Realmuto in hopes of retaining the one-time Gold Glove recipient, though to Clark’s knowledge, no concrete negotiations have taken place. Newly-minted President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski relayed a similar sentiment last week, insisting that despite frequent communication with Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, parameters on a long-term deal had yet to be discussed.
For leverage purposes, Realmuto probably would have been better served by the Mets staying involved, though New York’s pursuit of the 29-year-old ended earlier this month when the team poached former White Sox All-Star James McCann on a four-year, $40.6-million pact. In addition to the Phillies, Realmuto has also received interest from the Astros, Blue Jays and Nationals.
An Oklahoma native, Realmuto debuted for the Marlins in 2014, four years after arriving as a third-round draft pick. The former shortstop boasts a .278 career average with 95 homers, 358 RBI and 44 stolen bases across 2,699 big-league at-bats. If Realmuto departs in free agency as many are expecting, the Phillies would be left with Andrew Knapp and Venezuelan prospect Rafael Marchan behind the plate.