Phillies catcher targets dwindling as McCann, Zunino sign
By Matt Rappa
Two potential Phillies replacements for J.T. Realmuto are now off the board.
Earlier this week, Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi expressed concern that the organization lacked Major League-ready depth at the catching position. That is why they signed Christian Bethancourt to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training just a day later.
Outside of Bethancourt, the Phillies still only have Andrew Knapp and Rafael Marchan under contract as feasible other options to log big-league innings at the position in 2021. For now, J.T. Realmuto remains a free agent.
The Phillies are running out of options to sign even a somewhat comparable potential placement to Realmuto, if both sides cannot agree on a deal.
The Phillies were rumored to have interest in James McCann, formerly of the Chicago White Sox, however he recently signed a four-year, $40.6 million contract with the New York Mets — a rumored (now former) Realmuto suitor. Perhaps the next-best Realmuto replacement would have been Mike Zunino, however on Wednesday the Tampa Bay Rays re-signed him to a one-year contract with an option for 2022.
Girardi recently told reporters that the Phillies must address their lack of big-league-ready catching depth, and added that the club is always looking at backup plans, especially as players get taken off the board.
“Sometimes your Plan B becomes Plan C or Plan D,” Girardi said.
Of course, the easy resolution would be for the Phillies to just re-sign Realmuto. However, the task is easier said than done.
“Everybody in the organization loves J.T. I mean, that’s anybody I’ve talked to,” new Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Friday during his introductory press conference. “I think there’s a unanimous feeling they’d like to bring him back. Now, those things are never easy — a lot of us have dealt with free-agent markets in the past.”
“There is some flexibility to make moves there,” Dombrowski added, “but again, can you get something like that done? I’m really not sure.”
For now, Knapp, Marchan, and Bethancourt are essentially the top-3 MLB-ready catchers in the Phillies’ organization. I am not sure even those three combined would even come close to the contributions a healthy Realmuto could provide across a full season.
With McCann and Zunino already off the board, and as others soon will, the talent gap between Realmuto and other potential veteran free-agent signees will only grow larger.