Phillies

Phillies

You may have noticed that Mookie Betts agreed to a 12-year, $365 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

Bryce Harper certainly did.

"I think the deal just goes to show that teams can still afford players at this moment and in this trying time of COVID," Harper said.

With Betts gone from this winter's free agent market, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto zooms to the head of the class.

Harper has been vocal about wanting to see the Phillies extend Realmuto. He mentioned it during spring training in Clearwater and he shouted it – Sign Him! – in Citizens Bank Park earlier this month.

Harper, in the second season of a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies, stumped for his teammate again on Wednesday.

"Everyone knows how I feel about J.T.," Harper said. "I think the fan base, we feel the same way, and I think ownership does, too. 

"You know, I think we're 60 days away from him getting to free agency, so I think J.T. is going to do what's best for his family, what's best for himself, and hopefully that's him coming back to Philly and getting a deal done.

"I think he's the best catcher in baseball, a great player, a great individual that we need in our clubhouse as a leader and as a person and hopefully we can get that deal done and he can be in red pinstripes for the rest of his career."

 

Harper added that he believed the Betts deal "definitely helps J.T. and his cause."

Realmuto, 28, is seeking big bucks over a long term deal. He has made it clear that he's on a mission to raise the salary bar for all catchers. Joe Mauer's eight-year deal with the Minnesota Twins carried an average annual value of $23 million. That has long been viewed as the bar Realmuto wants to clear, but there have been rumblings in the baseball industry that the bar is actually significantly higher than that.

The Phillies and Realmuto were in talks in March, but they ceased when the commissioner's office ordered a stop to all transactions and negotiations during the COVID shutdown. When the moratorium on talks was lifted in late June, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said the "landscape" had changed due to the effect that the COVID shutdown has had on revenues. Ten days later, Realmuto acknowledged that there had been no movement in talks since the shutdown ended. It is not known if talks have picked up since then. Opening day is Friday and Realmuto is poised to hit the open market in the fall.

On Wednesday, Harper referenced the structure of his own contract in putting some pressure on the Phillies to get a deal done with Realmuto.

"I'm going to be here for a long time and I want what's best for this organization and I think everyone in our clubhouse wants what's best, so I think from the top to the bottom we have guys in control that want that as well," Harper said. "So if J.T. is the best for our organization, that's going to set us up long term to try to win World Series, we can do that. I think my contract is pretty suitable to bring guys in here. That's why I lengthened it out for as long as I did. Hopefully we can get that deal done to the best of our ability."

Though he's been vocal from afar on the subject of signing Realmuto, Harper said he has not taken his concerns directly, face-to-face, to team officials.

"That's not really my job, you know," he said. "I think they're up there for a reason. Our GM is who he is, our president is who he is, and our owner is who he is. That's their job. I want to go out there and play right field. I've said it numerous times. Everybody knows how I feel about those guys. I think they can help us win. But that's not my job. I don't get paid to be the GM or president or anything like that. I get paid to hit homers and play a good right field."

Sixteen months ago, Harper signed the largest payday in baseball history. Now, he ranks third behind Betts, who received a $365 million extension in the middle of a pandemic, and Mike Trout, who received a $360 million extension from the Angels shortly after Harper signed with the Phillies.

 

"Congrats to Mookie Betts," Harper said. "I'm happy for him. He deserves that deal twice over. He's a great player and a great person and I’m very happy to see him locked up long term in L.A."

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