Can Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto really play until he's 40?

The Phillies backstop has been one of the most durable catchers in the sport over his career. Can he still be a productive catcher at age 40 or beyond?

Can Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto really play until he's 40?
Can Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto really play until he's 40? / Elsa/GettyImages

It's rare for any athlete to play, let alone excel at their sport at age 40. However, with modern training and knowledge of proper physical care, more players are staying in Major League Baseball past their 40th birthday.

Heading into 2024, eight notable players will be 40 or over that before the season's end. So, while it may not be implausible for players to play past their thirties, it is unlikely. The position can play a large role in determining how long a player can stay on the field. The more strenuous the position, the less likely a player is to remain active past a certain age.

Catchers play arguably the most straining position on the field. They get beat up by foul balls, drop down to block low pitches, and spend much of their time squatting, which adds extra stress to their knees. So, how likely is it that Philadelphia Phillies backstop J.T. Realmuto can play into his forties?

Paul Hagen recently wrote a piece for NBC Sports Philadelphia about Realmuto's prospects of still playing at the age of 40.

How likely is it that Realmuto will be playing baseball at 40 years old?

When the Phillies acquired Realmuto via a trade with the Miami Marlins, some speculated that the club gave up too much. However, since arriving in Philadelphia, the 33-year-old has been the best, if not one of the best, catchers in baseball. He has also been one of the most durable in the game.

Over the last three seasons, Realmuto has been tied or has led all National League catchers in games caught. To put the catcher's durability into perspective, he has logged almost 1,100 innings in each of the last three seasons as Hagen notes. The value that he has provided cannot be disputed despite a drop-off in production in 2023.

Last season, Realmuto posted his lowest OPS since joining the Phillies. His batting average, RBI, and walk totals also decreased from the previous season. He is still one of the more productive catchers in MLB. The reliable backstop is entering his mid-thirties and in order to stay productive, extra rest will be beneficial.

With some decent catching depth in the system in Rafael Marchán — who, if healthy, could make an impact in the next year or two — there could be a chance for Realmuto to catch fewer innings to help him stay fresh at the plate. There are also younger catchers in the system like Eduardo Tait and Caleb Ricketts. The issue is, Realmuto doesn't want to be on the bench. He is a competitor and wants to be in the action.

His routine and athleticism allow Realmuto to stay healthy and play in as many games as possible. Former Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal spoke to Hagen about the current Phillies' catcher's ability.

"He's fortunate because he's so athletic," Lieberthal old Hagen. "He can run. It's more of an athletic position now than it was 20 years ago. You see guys being converted from shortstop to catching in the minors. There are a few catchers in the league who are athletic, but probably not quite like J.T."

The former backstop is correct. Realmuto is built differently than many other catchers. His athleticism makes it more of a possibility that he will be able to play a role later in his career. As long as he can hit and remains healthy, there's no reason to think a player of Realmuto's caliber could not play into his forties. He may not find himself calling games when he's that age, but with the universal designated hitter in baseball, there's a chance that he could find himself another contract or two when his current deal expires after the 2025 season.