The Philadelphia Phillies can’t lose J.T. to the Nats.
Heading into the offseason, the New York Mets were universally considered the biggest threat to the Philadelphia Phillies in terms of signing J.T. Realmuto. Spearheaded by the richest owner in MLB history (Steve Cohen), the Mets were expected to spend a ton of money in free agency – and they had a glaring hole at catcher. Considering the Mets and Phillies longstanding rivalry, it seemed only appropriate for Cohen to target Realmuto on the open market.
Luckily, the Mets pivoted to free agent catcher James McCann instead. The former White Sox catcher signed a four-year/$40 million contract with New York, locking him in to be the team’s franchise backstop over the next handful of seasons. This signing obviously ruled them out of a Realmuto pursuit – which was a pretty big win for the Philadelphia Phillies.
However, with the Mets now out of the running, it was actually a different NL East organization that popped up in the Realmuto talks. According to Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic and MLB Network, the Washington Nationals have at least reached out to Realmuto and his camp.
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On the surface, the Nationals’ interest makes sense. They’ve lost key middle-of-the-order bats in Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon the past two offseasons, they likely want to push for a World Series one last time with Max Scherzer, and they were running Kurt Suzuki (who is really bad!) at catcher last season. Oh, and Juan Soto and Realmuto have been on good terms for awhile now. The Nats’ budding superstar is undoubtedly pushing for the organization to bring in the 2x All-Star backstop.
However, as mentioned in the above report, the ability to sign Realmuto ultimately rests in the hands of the Nationals’ owners: the Lerners. The Lerners have long prioritized low payroll over winning, with the before mentioned departures of Harper and Rendon being prime examples. It’s hard for me to imagine them signing off on a massive $100+ million contract for Realmuto, especially with extensions looming for Soto and Trea Turner.
With that said, the Nats’ ability to add Realmuto is definitely there, and John Middleton and the Philadelphia Phillies need to be aware of it. Not only would losing Realmuto be a massive blow to the Phillies roster, but it would also signal a “small market” type mindset. When the team went out and landed Harper in 2019 – stealing him away from DC – it really changed up the perception of where the Phillies were at as an organization.
While it hasn’t resulted in any postseason success quite yet, it got fans back into the seats, and it got people talking about Philadelphia baseball once more. Less than two years later, if the roles are flipped and the Phillies are now being gutted by division rivals, that sends a pretty brutal message to the fanbase.
Not to mention that Bryce would probably explode.
Ultimately speaking, we all know the Realmuto talks are going to come down to what number is on the contract. J.T. has expressed a genuine interest in returning to Philly, but he also knows his worth as the best catcher in baseball, and he’s not going to settle for less that what he deserves. If Middleton and the Phillies are serious about bringing him back – in turn keeping him away from DC – they’re going to have to just hand over the cash.