The Philadelphia Phillies can’t afford JT Realmuto, which means the best catcher in baseball all-but-officially will be playing for a new team in 2021 unless he takes a dramatic, unforeseen discount.
That likely is not happening, as multiple reports on Saturday revealed Phillies owner John Middleton told his front office that the franchise doesn’t have enough money to retain the 29-year-old All-Star after losing $145 million due to the pandemic.
It’s a bitter pill for the Phillies to swallow as they couldn’t get to the postseason with a lineup that featured Realmuto, Bryce Harper, and Rhys Hoskins for two seasons. Even more so, it presents the possibility of alienating Harper in just the third year of his massive contract with the club after the star outfielder championed for the Phillies to bring back Realmuto for the long-term.
A bidding war could be in the cards to decipher the backstop’s future team — his next contract is predicted to be near the five-year, $110 million range — and two potential suitors could be right in the Phillies’ division, the NL East.
The New York Mets have long been linked to Realmuto, even before the official takeover of new majority owner, Steve Cohen, who is now the richest owner in Major League Baseball.
While a vast number of teams will or have already shed salary, the Mets are poised to be the big spenders for the first time in their history with several needs ranging from starting-pitching depth to a natural center fielder, to catcher.
Cohen himself on Saturday wrote on Twitter that the Mets have “lots of irons in the fire,” further cementing the notion that they are pursuing the likes of Realmuto, George Springer, and Trevor Bauer.
Another team that has been mentioned, but nearly to the extent of the Mets, has been the Washington Nationals, who are also in the mix for a catcher.
Realmuto’s signing — whenever that may come — will then create the domino effect that will put the rest of the catcher’s market in place.
James McCann is the No. 2 option behind Realmuto after an All-Star 2019 season with the Chicago White Sox. He’s a much cheaper option compared to Realmuto and could be pursued by the interested parties that lost out on the No. 1 option or even the Phillies, who now need to fill a massive void behind the plate.