Phillies

Done deal: Phillies land elite catcher J.T. Realmuto in blockbuster trade

Done deal: Phillies land elite catcher J.T. Realmuto in blockbuster trade

Updated: 3:20 p.m.

The Phillies and Marlins on Thursday completed a trade that brings All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia.

Top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitcher Will Stewart head to Miami. The Phillies also sent international slot money to the Marlins.

Adding Realmuto, a top offensive and defensive catcher, improves the Phillies’ winter dramatically. They have already added shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson. And, of course, the team is still very much in the hunt for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two mega stars on the free-agent market. First baseman Rhys Hoskins recently said he believed the Phillies would land either Machado or Harper. Doing that would take the Phillies' impressive winter to a higher level and could make them the favorite in the NL East.

The Phillies were linked to Realmuto during the winter meetings two months ago. At the time, a member of the Marlins organization said the Phillies didn’t have the prospects to pull off a deal. But after months of trying to move Realmuto, the Marlins found what they liked with the Phillies.

Alfaro, 25, was the Phillies’ regular catcher last year. The addition of Realmuto made him expendable. Sanchez, 20, was a big key to the deal. The Phillies’ top pitching prospect features a big fastball and exceptional control. However, he missed significant time with an elbow injury last season.

Realmuto turns 28 in March and won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season. He hit .277 with 30 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs and an .825 OPS for the Marlins last season. He is considered an excellent handler of pitchers.

Realmuto has seen young stars and former teammates such Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna get shipped out by the rebuilding Marlins and was eager to be the next guy to go.

The Dodgers, Reds, Padres, Mets and Braves were all considered top suitors for Realmuto earlier this winter.

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The Phillies' competition for Bryce Harper after Manny Machado reportedly agrees to deal with Padres

The Phillies' competition for Bryce Harper after Manny Machado reportedly agrees to deal with Padres

Updated: 2:15 p.m. 

With Manny Machado off the board, so too are the Padres in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.

Are the Phillies just bidding against themselves at this point?

Let's take a look at the rest of the market:

White Sox

The White Sox richest reported offer to either player this offseason was in the range of $200 million. Aside from not being able to offer the most money, the White Sox offer even less of a chance to win now than the Padres. Harper is uber-competitive, so you would think this matters.

White Sox executive VP Ken Williams said this:

Telling.

Here's what White Sox GM Rick Hahn had to say:

These do not sound like the comments of a team that thinks it has a chance to land Harper.

Nationals

You learn in this business to never say never, especially when it comes to high-priced negotiations that can change at a moment's notice. 

The Nationals, by word and deed, appear to have moved on from Harper. They have a good outfield even without him — Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, top prospect Victor Robles — and also must worry about paying underrated star Anthony Rendon when his contract expires after 2019. 

Rumblings about Harper's work ethic also leaked out of the Nationals' spring training clubhouse earlier this week. 

Washington's payroll is nearing $200 million and is precariously close to exceeding the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Nats do, however, have about $60 million coming off the books after 2019.

That said, the Phillies should be able to top Washington's offer, especially since all of the Nats' highest-priced players have deferrals in their contract. The Phils should be able to close a deal without deferring any of the money. Deferral vs. non-deferral should be an easy decision for any player.

If money means the most to Harper, the Phillies have the clear advantage. If it's a combination of money and comfort, you can't just outright eliminate the Nats.

Giants

The Giants have reportedly only been interested in giving Harper a shorter-term deal. At this point, especially after Machado got a 10-year contract from the Padres, it would be extremely surprising if Harper went that route. It might look like a loss, which Scott Boras is rarely willing to take.

The Giants were a team to worry about because of the affinity Harper and his wife Kayla have for the Bay Area and because of his friendship with guys like Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. 

But again, the Giants just aren't a win-now team. They won 73 games last season and their top players are aging out of their primes. Posey is no longer the elite offensive option he once was. Madison Bumgarner, a free-agent at season's end, is no longer the unquestioned ace he once was. 

San Francisco is also a tough place to hit. Harper's numbers there would probably be worse than they were at Nationals Park (which plays mostly neutral but hitter-friendly when it's warm) and at Citizens Bank Park.

The pressure is on the Phillies' front office to get this done. The biggest roadblocks at this point would be an 11th-hour mystery team emerging, or a genuine hesitance from Harper to play in Philadelphia. There's no real indication he doesn't want to be in Philly other than this tweet, which could also be a mere ploy by Boras to get the Phillies to boost their offer one final time.



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Data proves Phillies fans want Bryce Harper over Manny Machado

Data proves Phillies fans want Bryce Harper over Manny Machado

Manny Machado is off the board and headed to San Diego, according to reports (see story), and the collective reaction from Phillies fans seems to be “we wanted Harper anyway.”

We have data that actually backs that up.

Since this offseason’s free agency began, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado's names have been on the tips of every Phillies fans' tongues and, by many accounts, the Phillies were genuinely interested in Machado, but the fans weren’t that interested, especially recently.

Here’s what the data had to say.

What does it mean? This chart is a visualization of search frequency data from Google in Philadelphia. Google assigns a number, 1-100, to show how popular a given search term is. In the graph above, the blue line represents searches for “Manny Machado, Phillies," the red line represents search data for “Bryce Harper, Phillies.” Since the final day of the 2018 MLB season, "Bryce Harper, Phillies" has been searched 4.5 times more in Philadelphia than his mega free agency counterpart. Over the past week, that number jumps to 18 times more.

It’s clear that Harper, and not Machado, is the guy that Phillies fans want. We'll have to keep waiting to see if it happens.

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