Phillies ‘willing’ to give J.T. Realmuto record AAV contract

J.T. Realmuto #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
J.T. Realmuto #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Phillies reportedly are willing to give catcher J.T. Realmuto a record-breaking contract

Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto had quite the first season in red pinstripes last year that culminated into several impressive feats.

Some of these feats included the six-year veteran being the first Phillies’ first Silver Slugger Award-winning catcher since Darren Daulton in 1992, and just the third catcher in franchise history to win the Gold Glove Award, Bob Boone in 1978 and 1979 and Mike Lieberthal in 1999. Not to mention, Realmuto earned his second-career All-Star nod and a top-14 National League MVP award finish.

These awards recognized Realmuto, 29, for his game-changing contributions, both behind and on the plate as a defensive catcher and batter, respectively.

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Yet, when the Phillies acquired Realmuto from the Marlins in February 2019, in exchange for Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart, Jorge Alfaro and international bonus slot money, it came with him without a lengthy contract.

This coming offseason, following the intense, 60-game season, Realmuto is set to enter free agency for the first time of his career. And, the Phillies are reportedly committed that will never come to fruition.

“I still think there is a strong appetite on the Phillies’ part to extend the relationship with J.T. Realmuto and get him signed to a contract extension,” said Jim Salisbury Wednesday evening on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s “Phillies Return to Play” special.

Salisbury expressed that the Phillies know what Realmuto is worth, and are willing to give him more than $23 million a year over a four-, five- or six-year contract. That $23-plus million would make Realmuto the highest-paid catcher in baseball history in terms of average annual value (AAV). MLB’s transaction freeze will be lifted at noon EST on Friday, June 26.

Before the pandemic halted “spring training 1.0,” there was a belief a “soft deadline” existed for the Phillies to extend Realmuto ahead of Opening Day in late March. Salisbury believes that was the time the Phillies wanted to get that deal done. And, while that original deadline has come and gone, the baseball scribe added that he is not sure if the delay has affected talks as they stand now, “other than just pushing everything back.”

“Now, July 24 becomes sort of that deadline. They get about a month to get something done,” Salisbury said. “They can start negotiating again on Friday. I think they will attempt to get something done quite seriously.”

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With the 2020 season now not beginning until late July, only three months remain until Realmuto is currently slated to enter free agency. Back in March, the gap was not quite as narrow. Salisbury raised the point that Realmuto may just opt to “let things ride” and “risk the possibility of poor performance or injury” for the chance to acquire “greater riches on the free-agent market.”

When Realmuto lost his arbitration hearing this past winter, he said the Phillies took advantage of an outdated system, adding: “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I can’t predict the future.”

It was the Phillies’ first hearing in more than a decade; Realmuto was awarded $10 million, as opposed to his requested $12.4 million.

Prior to the hearing, the All-Star catcher said he could see himself playing his entire career in Philadelphia, adding: “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There’s no hard feelings … I think the Phillies and myself could line up pretty well.”

If Realmuto does not want to negotiate a contract extension with the Phillies before the next “soft deadline,” Salisbury said that does not necessarily mean the team will inevitably lose him this offseason through free agency: “The thing that does bode well for the Phillies is no fans in the stands and revenues down. That will affect the free-agent market globally. That could lead J.T. Realmuto to realize his best deal is right here in Philadelphia.”

“Clearly, the team wants to get something done with him and lock him up for four, five or six years.”

Realmuto’s mission at his arbitration hearing was to set a precedent for future catchers. While he lost his case, he very well could still make a bold statement with a new $23-plus AAV contract.