When the Phillies traded for Silver Slugger Award winning catcher J.T. Realmuto ahead of the 2019 season, he had only two years of team control under his contract. With this in mind, the obvious decision would have been to sign him to an extension so he stays in town long term. After all, the man who many believe to be the best catcher in baseball was entering his prime, fit our timeline well, and with all things considered, we gave up a lot to get him via trade.
Jorge Alfaro is still a young and upcoming catcher in this league and could project to be the Marlins starter at that position long-term. The biggest loss in the trade was dealing away right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez. The 22-year-old made his MLB debut this summer and pitched in the postseason with the Marlins. His stuff is on the mound is filthy, and he has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. It is bad enough we gave these players away, but it’s even worse they now compete within our division. Sixto especially could come back to haunt us for years to come. He would have been a great starter to pair with Nola atop of our rotation.
Switching gears back to J.T., since the team failed to get an extension done, he will now be entering free agency. The Phillies can give him a qualifying offer, in which they would receive a draft pick in return if he were to sign elsewhere. At the moment in time, I feel there’s a good chance that this may happen. The Mets have a new owner that is willing to spend big, and they have a hole at the catcher position. Their starter from this previous season, Wilson Ramos, regressed both offensively and defensively. Their crosstown rival the Yankees could also make a play for Realmuto. Both teams from the Big Apple have money to spend and could drive up the price. Not a good sign for a team like the Phillies, who have been reluctant to go over the luxury tax in recent years.
If J.T. were to sign elsewhere, the only other catchers on the 40-man roster would be switch hitter Andrew Knapp and the 21-year-old Rafael Marchan. Although Knapp is coming off a solid season, neither of which I would feel comfortable with as my everyday catcher heading into 2021. There is a good chance that the team may look elsewhere to bring in another backstop, whether that would be through trade, or via free agency. I know most, if not all Phillies fans, want to re-sign Realmuto to rationalize the deal to give up Sixto Sanchez. However, knowing what it may cost to keep him in town, the team may consider going in a different direction. I would hate to see them turn a bad trade into an even worse one if the contract turned out to be a bust. A multi-year deal worth over 20 million dollars per season is a large asking price for a catcher playing the entirety of the contract on the wrong side of 30, no matter how talented they may be.
The Phillies may be better off investing those funds into improving other areas of the ballclub. I am sure the team has at least entertained the idea of resigning Didi Gregorius, and the pitching staff without a doubt could use an upgrade. Pitching in this day in age is not cheap, and the Phillies could use at least a couple of bullpen arms to improve upon their disastrous results from last season. No matter who the Phillies have behind the dish next season, they will be entering play on Opening Day with the longest playoff drought in all of the National League. Not only that, the best pitching prospect they have had in recent memory will be throwing against them on the mound for years to come. The J.T. Realmuto trade could come back to haunt the Phillies in a variety of ways, especially if he were to end up signing with the Mets this winter and stays within the NL East.