The Phillies got J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins Thursday, and he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of his former teammate, Christian Yelich.
The Phillies made their biggest splash of the offseason Thursday, trading Jorge Alfaro, prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, and international slot money to the Marlins for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. The catcher had been on the block all offseason and Philadelphia swept in to make the move very quickly in the last few days.
On the surface, Realmuto will be a significant upgrade over Alfaro behind the plate. Realmuto was worth 4.3 wins above replacement last year while Alfaro was worth 1.2. Realmuto had a .277/.340/.484 line, 139 OPS+, 21 home runs, and 74 runs batted in over 531 plate appearances. Alfaro had a .262/.324/.407 line, 95 OPS+, 10 home runs, and 37 runs batted in over 377 plate appearances.
This trade resembles last year’s trade of Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Yelich went on to have a career year, winning the NL MVP award with 29 of 30 first-place votes. Realmuto could follow a similar trajectory this year as a Phillie.
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In 2017, Yelich had a .282/.369/.439 line, 120 OPS+, 18 home runs, and 81 runs batted in. Last year, his numbers jumped considerably, leading the league in batting average (.326), slugging percentage (.598), OPS (1.000), and total bases (343).
Looking back to Yelich’s home-road splits as a Marlin in 2017, it’s easy to see why his numbers jumped so much once he left their home stadium and went to Milwaukee:
Realmuto also showed significant home-road splits last year:
In addition to overall better numbers, Realmuto would have hit more home runs had he been playing in Citizens Bank Park for his home games:
Realmuto will also benefit from being part of a very potent offense on paper, unlike the Marlins. He could be surrounded in the lineup by Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, and one of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. It will be hard to pitch around Realmuto with those guys in the lineup.
Given this information, it’s very easy to envision Realmuto’s numbers jumping as a Phillie this season. Like Yelich, he would need to have a career year to enter the MVP race. However, he already performed at an All-Star level last year, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to see him elevate into the MVP conversation.
It should be noted that a catcher winning the MVP award is fairly unprecedented. Only four have ever won the award, and none have in over 40 years: Mickey Cochrane (1928, 1934), Yogi Berra (1951, 1954, 1955), Elston Howard (1963), and Thurman Munson (1976). Realmuto would need to have an utterly dominant season at the plate to have a shot at the award.
As Yelich showed in 2018, leaving Marlins Park helps your offensive numbers considerably. Realmuto would obviously need to improve beyond that but has the potential to follow in Yelich’s footsteps.