If you’re ever interested in wasting 20 seconds of your life, go any social media post from the Phillies and see how many replies it takes for someone to urge, cajole or flat out demand that the team sign J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension immediately.
Chances are you won’t get to the fifth reply without it happening.
Naturally, Phillies fans want to see the club lock up an all-star level talent for the foreseeable future as soon as possible. Or at least before the end of the season when Realmuto would enter free agency.
But is there a real incentive for either side to get a deal done right now?
Realmuto has already played five full big league seasons and only has 60 games left to go before he gets his first crack at the open market as the best player at his position. Obviously, the threat of substantial injury is always an incentive to sign a long-term deal. But you don’t see a lot of runners that are leading a marathon at the 26-mile mark shut it down over a fear of cramping. The finish line is certainly in sight for the 29-year old backstop.
If Realmuto and his camp want to set a new salary standard for catchers, as our Jim Salisbury has reported to be the case, the best method is to create a bidding war for his services. And the only way to do that is in free agency.
Then, there’s the Phillies side of this negotiation. Obviously, Matt Klentak and the club’s front office want to get a deal done with Realmuto. When the Phils traded away Sixto Sanchez, the club’s top pitching prospect, most viewed it as a mandate that Realmuto be signed to a long- term extension.
But at this point, it’s likely that the only type of contract the Phillies could sign Realmuto to that would entice him to turn away from the open market is a record-setting one of more than $23 million per year over five or six years. If the best you can do now is pay the highest annual salary ever at a position, you might as well wait.
Perhaps the economic losses that are coming as a result of the pandemic will drastically limit Realmuto’s market and lead to a more team-friendly contract than would have been available under normal circumstances. There’s no doubt there will be less money spent in free agency this offseason compared to recent years. The only question is if it will impact the top of the market or only drive down the price for the game’s middle class talent.
Regardless, it’s not as if Realmuto’s camp doesn’t know the Phillies are interested and motivated to build a winner with the catcher as an integral piece. There’s no reason to believe Klentak and company won’t be offered a last chance to counter whatever the highest bid might be this winter.
Undoubtedly, there are some of you out there that read the last few paragraphs and thought something to the effect of, "Who cares if they overpay? It’s not my money. We can’t risk losing the best catcher in baseball." But no one individual signing happens in a vacuum.
For every dollar you overspend in signing a player, you lose the opportunity to allocate that dollar to another area of need. And the Phillies have to go well beyond maintaining the same roster if they hope to be legitimate contenders in the short term.
Could the Phillies and J.T. Realmuto agree to a long-term deal before the end of the season? Never say never. But it really doesn’t seem like it’s in anyone’s best interest for it to happen now.
Except for the fans that is. And if there’s any lesson we all should have learned by this point of 2020, it’s that sometimes you just have to wait for what you want.