The Miami Marlins finally found a trade partner for J.T. Realmuto, dealing the All-Star catcher to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Marlins announced. The Marlins will receive catcher Jorge Alfaro, minor league pitchers Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart and an international bonus slot from Philadelphia in exchange for Realmuto.
ESPN's Jeff Passan first reported the news.
This comes after a long period of apparent unhappiness by Realmuto with the direction of Miami's roster.
Craig Mish of SiriusXM reported in December 2017 that Realmuto requested a trade from the Marlins. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports noted the request was a response to the organization's decision to trade so many talented players away during the offseason prior to the 2018 campaign, minimizing its chances of competing for the playoffs in the immediate future.
The Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon that offseason as they attempted to slash payroll with new ownership, and Realmuto is the latest talented player to be shipped out.
As if the previous reported trade request wasn't enough evidence, it became clear following the 2018 season that Realmuto didn't want to be in Miami long term when his agent, Jeff Berry, appeared on MLB Network (h/t Daniel Kramer of MLB.com) and said, "I think he will definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of Spring Training."
Realmuto gives Philadelphia a formidable and affordable presence behind the plate under team control for multiple seasons. He already reached a $5.9 million arbitration settlement for 2019 and has another year of arbitration in 2020 before hitting free agency.
Mish went as far as to call Realmuto, 27, "one of the game's best (if not the best) young catchers."
He provides a source of power from behind the plate with double-digit home runs in each of the last four seasons, including a career-high 21 in 2018 as a Silver Slugger winner. He also finished with a .303 batting average in 2016 and slashed .277/.340/.484 with a career-best 74 RBI last season.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs noted in 2017 that Realmuto's athleticism allows him to stand out among backstops as well: "He just stole eight bases, a year after stealing 12 bases, and his career baserunning value is positive. That's uncommon for a catcher, and this speaks to Realmuto's athleticism. It's worth remembering that, when Realmuto was in high school, he played as a shortstop."
He is still in his prime and figures to have a much better chance at reaching the playoffs for the first time in his career with the Phillies than he did with the rebuilding Marlins.
Meanwhile, the Phillies get a huge upgrade at catcher. Alfaro was their primary backstop in 2018 with a .262/.324/.407 slash line in 108 games.
The move comes at a steep price for Philadelphia. Sanchez has the most potential of any player in the deal. The 20-year-old is ranked as the No. 35 overall prospect in MLB by ESPN.com's Keith Law. He was limited to eight starts last season due to elbow inflammation but had a 2.51 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 46.2 innings before being shut down.
Stewart had a 2.06 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 113.2 innings over 20 starts for Low-A Lakewood.