- The Philadelphia Phillies have re-signed catcher J.T.Realmuto to a five-year deal worth $115M
- Realmuto remains arguably the best catcher in baseball even entering his 30s
- Signing puts Phillies back towards contention in a deep NL East
With less than a month to go under pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the Philadelphia Phillies are the latest team to make a major splash in free agency as they retain a key cog in keeping them within arm’s reach in a deep NL East division.
Phillies Re-Sign Realmuto
According to MLB Network contributor Craig Mish, the Philadelphia Phillies have re-signed catcher J.T. Realmuto to a five-year deal worth $115.5M. Mish adds that the $23.1M average annual value of the deal is the highest in MLB history for a catcher.
The Philadelphia Phillies and JT Realmuto are in agreement on a 5 year $115.5 million dollar contract. Pending physical. Per source.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) January 26, 2021
The deal also includes an assignment clause that will give Realmuto $1M if he is traded over the course of the deal.
Realmuto turned down the $18.9M qualifying offer from the Phillies earlier in the offseason while in search of a long-term pact on the open market.
Last offseason, Realmuto lost his arbitration case with the Phillies. He and his camp requested $12.4M while the arbitrator landed on $10M for the 2020 season. Of course, Realmuto received a pro-rated portion of that sum given the shortened 60-game season.
That said, Realmuto didn’t hold resentment towards the Phillies after his lone trip through arbitration with the club.
“I love this organization,” he said. “They’ve been great to me and my family since I showed up. From top to bottom, they’re good people and they care about baseball. That’s important to me.”
Best Catcher in Baseball?
The Chicago White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $72M deal in free agency prior to the 2020 season. With Realmuto’s pact with the Phillies, the top two all-round catchers in baseball are spoken for.
Since the 2018 season, Realmuto leads all backstops with a 12.4 fWAR, edging out Grandal’s 11.6 mark. While Grandal owns the slight edge in offensive categories such as home runs, ISO, wOBA and wRC+, consider that after that duo, the next-best fWAR among catchers comes from the Cubs’ Willson Contreras with a 5.1 mark. There’s little doubt as to who the top two catchers in baseball are at this point.
Realmuto also leads all backstops with 189 RBIs and 16 stolen bases since 2018.
Defensive metrics from FanGraphs soured on his work in the 2020 season as he posted a -1 Defensive Runs Saved metric after posting a 12.0 mark in 2019, his first with the Phillies. He led all of baseball with 43 baserunners thrown out in that 2019 campaign while he has cut down 35.8% of would-be base-stealers in his career so far.
According to Statcast, Realmuto ranked in the league’s 95th percentile in pitch framing in the 2020 season as well as no worse than 67th percentile in sprint speed (84th), hard hit rate (67th), exit velocity (73rd), xwOBA (76th), xSLG (82nd) and barrel rate (88th).
Not only would the Realmuto signing please the Phillies faithful, but also Bryce Harper who publicly advocated for the Phillies to retain the elite backstop before he hit the open market.
While he marinated on the market for much of the offseason, the Phillies were able to retain a big piece of their puzzle for at least the next five seasons.
Back Into Contention
The Phillies are no front-runner, but if they failed to re-sign Realmuto there would be little chance of competing in a deep NL East that features the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins, the latter of whom surprised its way to a postseason berth in 2020.
Even given the Realmuto news, here’s where BetOnline currently has the NL East stacked up at the moment:
- Braves (+150)
- Mets (+180)
- Nationals (+550)
- Marlins (+750)
- Phillies (+900)
To me, there’s certainly a surprise at the bottom there. While the Marlins marched to the dance a season ago, most everything else pointed towards severe regression had the season not been cut short to just 60 games.
The Marlins’ -41 run differential yielded a 26-34 expected win/loss record as opposed to the 31-29 mark they lucked their way into. Meanwhile, the third-place Phillies’ -5 mark deserved a 30-30 mark that would have seen them as the second-place finisher in the division behind the Braves.
The pieces have seemingly been there with the likes of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler atop the pitcher staff and the likes of Harper, Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins as the bashers in the middle of the lineup, but the franchise has been stuck hovering around .500 for too long.
With this deal, they can at least carry some positive momentum into a season that is sure to feature a full-on war inside the NL East.