Can you really put a price on what J.T. Realmuto is worth to the Phillies?
What more can I say about Jacob Tyler Realmuto that I haven’t already said in numerous posts? He is the best catcher in the league, and he’s going to get paid (hopefully by the Phillies) like it.
Personal feelings aside, baseball is a business, and I understand that the Phillies need to do what is fiscally appropriate in terms of player deals.
Here, we’ll breakdown where Realmuto ranks among today’s catchers and what kind of deal he could be in for.
First, a look at Realmuto’s numbers and how he ranks across the league.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2015, here’s how Realmuto ranks among catchers:
- WAR – 3rd
- Offensive Value – 1st
- Average – 2nd (.279)
- Home Runs – 4th (84)
- Hits – 2nd (696)
- RBIs – 5th (317)
And that was while playing primarily in Miami, whose ballpark ranked in the bottom five in hits home runs, and RBIs from 2015-2018.
In his first year at the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, there was a clear increase in production, compared to other catchers with 400+ plate appearances:
- WAR – 1st
- Offensive Value – 3rd
- Defensive Value – 1st
- Average – 4th (.275)
- Home Runs – 3rd (25)
- Hits – 1st (148)
- RBIs – 1st (83)
Realmuto had arguably the greatest season ever for a Phillies catcher, hitting nearly 30 percent of his career home runs in 2019, while throwing out 43 runners attempting to steal a base.
The 2019 NL All Star, Gold Glove winner, and Silver Slugger winner is approaching his final year of arbitration and will likely set a record for an arbitration-eligible catcher.
According to FanGraphs, Realmuto’s dollar value of performance in 2019 was $45.6 million, and $138.3 million since 2015. Spotrac estimates that he will earn $10.4 million in 2020, while Realmuto’s camp values him at $12.4 million.
So how can we figure out how much Realmuto’s performance has been worth, and how it will translate into the long-term contract that the Phillies will offer him?
First, we have to look at the current market. After the arbitration hearing, Realmuto will be the fifth-highest-paid catcher in the league. Three of the top four are World Series-winning catchers: Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, and Salvador Perez. They are followed by Yasmani Grandal, who just signed this offseason at 31 years old. Molina and Grandal both signed their deals post-30 years old, while Perez and Posey both signed theirs at 26.
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Additionally, the difference between the third-highest contract and Realmuto’s estimated $10.4 is $8 million. Realmuto will also be entering his age 30 season when he becomes a free agent in 2021.
Next, we review the largest total money ever given to catchers. Joe Mauer, after winning the 2009 AL MVP, signed for $184 million, which is still the largest contract for a catcher. Posey’s contract after winning two World Series and an NL MVP in three years, was second, cashing in for $159 million. Mike Piazza posted six-straight All Star appearances and Silver Sluggers, and signed for $91 million after being traded to New York in 1999.
The biggest conundrum on the top five is Russell Martin, who has had an inconsistent career but struck gold when Toronto was in desperate need of a catcher to keep up in the AL East. Molina’s $75 million contract came after five-straight Gold Glove awards and a World Series. In short, accolades and desperation lead to major paydays.
Lastly, we need to tie the money to performance numbers, to see if there’s any correlation. Here you can see how the current top earning catchers and all time earning catchers compare to Realmuto’s numbers.
In terms of sheer numbers, Realmuto most compares to Perez and Grandal. When comparing accolades (MVP, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and All Stars), Realmuto has the third most Silver Sluggers, the fourth most Gold Gloves, and the second least All Star appearances. So, on the whole, Realmuto’s career to date most resembles Russell Martin. However, Realmuto has two years on Martin, and has leverage with the Phillies as the catcher market is fairly scant.
Therefore, when assessing Realmuto’s numbers and value, keeping in mind that the Phillies need his stability at catcher, and looking at what recent catchers have gotten in the open market, I estimate that he will get a contract north of $18 million a year, likely around five years.