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J.T. Realmuto Rumors: Astros 'Unlikely' to Sign Star Due to Draft Compensation

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2021

Philadelphia Phillies' J.T. Realmuto hits a three-run home run off New York Mets pitcher Walker Lockett during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The Houston Astros are reportedly "unlikely" to sign free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto because of the impact it would have on their already reduced stockpile of draft picks. 

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday an overlooked part of the MLB's decision on the Astros' sign-stealing scandal was forcing the club to forfeit its third pick in 2021 (a fifth-rounder) and its second selection in 2022 along with $1 million in international signing bonus money if it signs a free agent who received a qualifying offer, like Realmuto has.

The announcement of Houston's penalties last January noted the club lost its first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 drafts.

Realmuto makes sense on paper for the 'Stros as an upgrade over projected starter Martin Maldonado. He could help replace some of the offensive production lost with outfielders George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick hitting free agency.

The Springer loss is most significant, and Rosenthal explained his departure is also part of the equation for Houston because the 2021 fourth-round draft pick they would receive as compensation for him will be immediately lost if the Astros decide to sign a qualified free agent.

So, while Realmuto could help Houston's offense, the surrounding circumstances would make it seem the front office would be better off going all-in to try bringing Springer back if it's going to spend big.

Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported in December the Philadelphia Phillies are one of a handful of teams that could be in the hunt for the 29-year-old catcher, though his market has been a bit sluggish to develop given the financial uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic.

Realmuto spent the past two years in Philly following a February 2019 trade from the Miami Marlins. He posted a .840 OPS with 11 home runs in 47 games for the Phillies across 47 appearances in 2020.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals are among the other possible teams Realmuto would fit well in, as well as the Phillies and Astros, per Salisbury.

A lot is likely to depend on how much the pandemic affects contract values. There are still plenty of impact free agents available with 10 weeks until the 2021 season gets underway. Once more of those notable names sign to help set the market, there should be a barrage of signings before Opening Day.

Realmuto could be among the most important of those late additions given his position has a limited number of high-end offensive contributors.

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