Now that the offseason has officially begun, the best way to spend our time until baseball returns is listening to and following all the news and rumors that start getting churned out. And for the Miami Marlins, this time of year means trying to figure out what to do with catcher J.T. Realmuto.
They had expressed a desire to keep him for the long term, but it appears Realmuto’s feelings about the organization haven’t changed from what he said last winter. His agent publicly stated that the young backstop won’t be signing an extension with Miami, and the hope is he’ll playing elsewhere once the 2019 regular season is underway.
Cue just about everyone in baseball going after this guy, right? He’ll be entering his age-28 season fresh off posting a .277/.340/.484 line with 21 home runs, 74 RBI, and 74 runs scored in 531 plate appearances. Among those who qualified for the batting title, Realmuto’s 126 wRC+ and 4.8 fWAR were both the best at his position. Oh, and he made just $2.9 million and has two more years of team control before hitting free agency.
We recently talked about how many teams will have an interest in pursuing one of the top available catching options this winter, but Realmuto seeming to officially hit the trade block once again creates an interesting situation.
It’s obviously not a hard-and-fast unwritten rule, but teams generally like to avoid trading players — especially star-caliber ones — within their own division. Not having them on their own roster anymore is hard enough, and that only gets tougher when you have to face that particular player 19 times per year. As long as Miami is willing to deal Realmuto this time around (I mean, they probably should), they’ll likely have a number of potential suitors outside of the division to consider. Literally everyone else in the National League East needs a new catcher to some degree, though.
Everyone here is aware of what the Mets currently have available at the position with incumbents Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud (who is also a non-tender candidate). The Philadelphia Phillies just watched midseason acquisition Wilson Ramos declare for free agency. The Atlanta Braves recently signed Tyler Flowers to an extension, but at the very least, could use someone to pair with him after Kurt Suzuki hit the open market. The Washington Nationals also waved goodbye — and probably happily — to Matt Wieters after two lackluster seasons of his own.
To add another layer of interest, each of these teams has legitimate aspirations of contending not only in 2019, but also further into the immediate future, which would theoretically be the prime of Realmuto’s career. Miami will most definitely try and pump up any trade offers they get as much as possible, and that may not be too difficult depending on how many teams get involved.
We’re on the heels of hearing new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen talk about winning now and in the future, along with being “in” on every available player out there. However, landing Realmuto is going to be tough. It’ll already take a significant package of prospects to even get the conversation going before watching it escalate due to the anticipated competition. A lot will depend on what the Marlins are looking to get in return, as well as which players they eventually prefer in any deal.
It would be foolish for New York to not at least throw their proverbial hat in the ring, and based off what he said during Tuesday’s press conference, Van Wagenen will be doing just that. The most realistic outcome — especially when thinking about recent transaction history with the Mets — is to try their best to pry Realmuto from Miami, but ultimately just hope he doesn’t land in Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. while they go after the bigger fish — Ramos and Yasmani Grandal — via free agency.