Report: J.T. Realmuto, Phillies Agree to 5-Year, $115.5M Contract in Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2021

Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto looks on during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, July 26, 2019, in Philadelphia. Braves won 9-2. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to a five-year, $115.5 million contract with catcher J.T. Realmuto, according to MLB Network's Craig Mish and Jon Heyman.

Craig Mish @CraigMish

Realmuto with an AAV of $23.1 million dollars is the highest ever for a major league catcher in baseball history.

Per The Athletic's Jayson Stark, the contract includes deferred money:

Jayson Stark @jaysonst

More on Realmuto's contract, per sources: Of his $20M salary for 2021, half is deferred to help #Phillies with pandemic cash-flow issues. He'd then earn the same amount ($23.875M) in each of the final 4 years.

Heyman noted Realmuto's deal includes a $1 million assignment clause if he's traded.

Stark reported Jan. 15 the Phillies had put a five-year offer worth "slightly north" of $100 million on the table. That aligns with the hiring of Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations since Dombrowski's recipe for success is pretty straightforward: Spend a lot of money on proven talent.

Philadelphia acquired Realmuto from the Miami Marlins in February 2019, sending Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart to Miami in the trade. It was part of a big offseason for the Phillies, who signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract.

Things didn't go according to plan as the Phillies finished the 2019 season fourth in the National League East at 81-81.

Realmuto largely delivered, though. He batted .275 with a career-high .493 slugging percentage, 25 home runs and 83 RBI. His 5.7 WAR ranked first among all catchers.

In addition to his production at the plate, the two-time All-Star was one of the league's better defensive catchers. According to Baseball Prospectus, he was fourth in adjusted fielding runs above average (20.4) and eighth in framing runs (10.5).

Realmuto was his usual self during the abbreviated 2020 season. He had 11 home runs, 32 RBI and a .266/.349/.491 slash line. His 1.7 WAR tied for second among catchers. The 29-year-old set a career high in weighted on-base average (.361).

Realmuto also sat 11th in Baseball Prospectus' catcher defensive adjustment metric, living up to his reputation as one of MLB's best all-around catchers.

Thanks partially to their awful bullpen, the Phillies finished third in the National League East at 28-32 and missed the playoffs, even though postseason expansion lowered the bar for teams to qualify.

As with any catcher in his late 20s, there's a long-term concern about Realmuto's future at the position.

He played sporadically at first base with the Marlins and got four games there with Philadelphia in 2019, per Baseball Reference. As much as the 2020 campaign can provide any insight, his usage differed from the norm as he caught 36 games while playing first on six occasions. He was a designated hitter in nine games as well.

A full-time move to first base or DH might beckon in the future, but that shouldn't need to happen anytime soon based on how well Realmuto continues to defend. He made at least 125 starts for the fifth straight season in 2019, so durability isn't a question mark.

The Phillies still presumably want to contend in 2021, so letting Realmuto walk wouldn't have made much sense. Speaking with reporters in October, managing partner John Middleton didn't rule out his return but offered a cryptic comment about the possibility:

"Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans? Because if you do, you know something that I don't. So I have no idea what we're going to be allowed. Obviously, that will determine our revenues, and revenues determine what you can do and what you can't do."

While it shouldn't have factored too much into the final decision, failing to retain Realmuto would've meant the team had almost nothing left to show for losing Sanchez, who looks to be a valuable long-term piece in Miami's rotation.

Between bringing Dombrowski aboard and authorizing the contract put forward to Realmuto, Middleton is clearly looking to capitalize on the Phillies' championship window.


Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.