Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is widely regarded as baseball’s best at that position.
Now the question facing Philadelphia is can it afford to keep him. Realmuto, 29, will become a free agent at the end of this season. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted evert big league’s team finances.
“The landscape that we left in March is different from the one we return to now,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in a ZOOM video call with reporters Monday. “We just have to see how that manifests itself in our discussions. We still love the player. We’d still love to have him in red pinstripes for the long haul. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels. We just need to play that out.”
The Phillies are scheduled to hold their first official work out of summer camp at Citizens Bank Park and at Ashburn Field in FDR Park in Philadelphia on Friday. The 60-game season is scheduled to start July 23. Klentak with preparation for camp and the season he hasn’t had time to meet with Realmuto’s agent. Baseball rules prevented the Phillies from having contract discussions with Realmuto while the game was on hiatus because of the pandemic.
Realmuto hit 25 home runs, knocked in 83 runs and scored 92 runs in his first season with the Phillies last year. His Fangraph WAR (wins above replacement) of 5.7 led all National League catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. He was scheduled to earn $10 million before the virus struck and canceled most of the season.
The Phillies traded top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and minor league Will Stewart to the Miami Marlins in February 2019 for Realmuto. If the Phillies do not sign Realmuto, it would be a major blow to the organization not only because of Realmuto’s talent but also what the organization gave up getting him.
Klentak doesn’t expect starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to miss much time this season. Wheeler’s wife is due to give birth toward the end of July.
The Phillies signed Wheeler to a five year, $118 million contract in the offseason. There had been speculation that Wheeler might opt out of the season or miss substantial time because of his wife’s pregnancy. Klentak said he expects Wheeler to miss the typical paternity leave time of a few days.