Chris Szagola/Associated Press
Philadelphia Phillies star catcher J.T. Realmuto is in his final year of arbitration, and he is looking for record-breaking money when he hits the open market.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported sources have heard “for months” Realmuto is looking for a multi-year deal worth more than $23 million in annual average value (AAV). Anything over $23 million AAV will eclipse the record previously held by former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer.
Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper has long lobbied for the team to extend Realmuto. As Salisbury noted, Harper shouted “Sign him!” after Realmuto homered during an intrasquad scrimmage, and Bryce also made a “signature” motion after the All-Star catcher went yard against the Miami Marlins on Saturday.
Owner John Middleton answered a series of Salisbury’s questions regarding a potential Realmuto extension, notably whether he felt Mookie Betts’ creative contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers might serve as a baseline, of sorts. He responded, “There’s no reason why not.”
At the same time, Middleton told Salisbury the team will lose $100 million this season, with both his family and partners each tossing in $50 million to “underwrite” losses. Additionally, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said, “I don’t feel pressure to make a deal one way or another.”
Still, Realmuto believes Betts’ deal is proof big-market franchises will be willing to spend for top talent (h/t Salisbury):
“It was definitely positive to see for baseball, knowing that teams still do have that money. Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I still think that the teams at the top of the market are going to be willing to spend money. Some teams are going to take advantage of the situation, where half or even three-quarters of the league might not be as interested in spending as much money. Other teams are really going to go for it and push for those players. It was definitely good to see him get what he deserves.”
The 29-year-old has good reason to bet on himself.
Realmuto posted career-high marks in homers (25) and RBI (83) in his first year with the Phillies, finishing the year with a .820 OPS and also winning his first Gold Glove Award.
Aside from hitting for average and power, Realmuto is one of the finest defensive catchers in the game. He led all catchers in FanGraphs’ defensive value last season, and also ranked ninth in catcher framing, per Baseball Savant.
One of the reasons Harper took a lower AAV when he signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies last year is so the team would have the capital to spend on stars like Realmuto. Time will tell whether Middleton and Klentak indulge his subtle hints.
Regardless, Realmuto appears intent on getting a big payday.
Astros Close to Deal with Fernando Rodney
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
The Houston Astros are dealing with a plethora of early season pitching woes.
Right-hander Justin Verlander was shut down over the weekend with a “forearm strain,” though the 2019 American League Cy Young Award-winner said he hopes to return in due time.
Meanwhile, the team’s bullpen depth is thinning by the day. Joe Smith is still on the restricted list. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reported right-hander Chris Devenski is dealing with elbow soreness, while Austin Pruitt has been shut down. McTaggart also reported Ryan Pressly is day to day with elbow soreness.
The Astros are turning to right-hander Fernando Rodney for help. Adam Spolane of SportsRadio 610 in Houston reported the team is “nearing an agreement” to purchase Rodney’s contract from the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Constellation Energy League.
Rodney is a three-time All-Star, and he had a 4.05 ERA in 38 games with the Washington Nationals after a rough start with the Oakland Athletics. The 43-year-old also made three appearances in the World Series, though he walked six batters in just two innings of work.
It remains to be seen whether Rodney still has some gas left in the tank, but Houston is hoping the veteran can be effective in the bullpen amid its slew of injuries.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.