Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

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Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Joe Girardi officially opened his first Phillies spring training camp by telling the players to give him their hearts.

“He knows if he can get our heart, he’ll get our best on the field,” J.T. Realmuto said.

Both Girardi and managing partner John Middleton stressed that the goal was to play deep into October. The Phillies have not been to the postseason since 2011.

Middleton reminded the players of the passion that Philadelphia fans have and urged them to give back to the fans by playing the game hard and respecting it.

Girardi roamed the fields of Carpenter Complex during the workout. He lightened the mood at the end of a base-running drill by asking a group of players, including Jean Segura, to show off their home run trots.

“Just to have some fun,” Girardi said after the workout.

The home-run trot "drill" came with some instructions.

“Make sure you run hard before you know it's out,” he told the players. “The big thing is if you run hard to first, there is a great chance it'll be out by then. Then you don't get caught on first base or caught on second base when you should be a base ahead. Just run hard.”

Phillies pitchers will begin throwing live batting practice during Tuesday’s workout.

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Jean Segura hopes better lifestyle choices equal better season in 2020

Jean Segura hopes better lifestyle choices equal better season in 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies infielder Jean Segura bared his soul a little before Monday's first full-squad workout at Camp Clearwater.

He talked about the mental effect that his connection to teammate Andrew McCutchen's season-ending knee issue had on him last year. He talked about the difficulties that moving around the batting order around caused him. He talked about giving up whiskey and eating better this winter, about losing 14 pounds, all in hopes of having a better season in 2020.

"I have to enjoy what I do," a noticeably trimmer Segura said. "I think last year, I didn't do it too much because there was a lot of stress — Cutch went down, you know, a lot of situation going on with the lineup, you know, I'm hitting four, I never hit four in my life. So, there were a lot of things going on in the season that sometimes affect players."

Segura hit .280 with a .743 OPS last season, significant drops from the marks of .308 and .803 he'd averaged the previous three seasons.

His work at shortstop also slipped as he went from a plus-5 to a minus-5 in defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs.

Declines like these might lead a front office to consider moving on from a player, but the Phillies figure to have Segura for a while as they owe him $45 million through 2022.

The Phils will look for ways to get more out of Segura this season and one of them is a position change. With newcomer Didi Gregorius taking over at shortstop, Segura figures to open the season at second base, a position he thrived at for Arizona in 2016. Segura will get some looks at third base during spring training, but he's never played there and when the curtain goes up on the regular season, he will likely be at second with Scott Kingery at third.

Segura, who turns 30 next month, said he was not slighted by the addition of Gregorius.

"We added another good player," he said. "As a professional baseball player, I have to understand what's best for the team, what's best for the organization. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it. I just want to play and have fun."

Segura had a lot of fun the first two months of last season. He ended May hitting .301 with an .809 OPS. 

On June 3, in the first inning of a game at San Diego, the good vibes that Segura had been feeling went away when McCutchen went down with a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee. McCutchen blew out the knee in a rundown that resulted from Segura's not running out an infield popup.

McCutchen's injury was a huge loss for the Phillies. At the time, he had the second-best on-base percentage (.378) of any leadoff man in the majors. After the injury, Phillies leadoff men recorded at .295 on-base percentage, second worst in the majors, over the remainder of the season.

Though McCutchen absolved his teammate of any blame — and continues to do so — Segura was and still is bothered by the incident.

"It was frustrating for me," he said. "We were hot. I was hot. And when that happened because I didn't hustle down the line, a lot of people judged me for that. A lot of people didn't, but at the end of the day, it's what I think and I think I didn't hustle. I don't think it was my fault. He got hurt maybe because that day he was going to get hurt. At the end of the day, people looked at it like it was my fault, but it's a baseball game and you can't control a baseball game.

"But at the end of the day it affected my mentality because one of my teammates went down because I didn't run down the line. I thought about it a lot through the season. My body, my energy level went down. I was kind of frustrated about it because at that time he was hot, he was leading off and I was hitting second. It was like a two-punch right away and when you don't see that two-punch right away when we start a game, it's tough."

Segura spent the winter getting in better physical shape and he believes it will help him.

"You can put 14 pounds on your shoulder and go running and you'll feel how heavy it is when you get tired," he said. "That happens sometimes when you're overweight and you play shortstop and you stress a lot."

His off-season fitness program included eating better, sleeping more and giving up whiskey. He still might have an occasional glass of wine with his wife, but no more whiskey.

"I think everybody in this sport drinks whiskey and now I'm not drinking anymore," he said. "Now I feel pretty good. I feel excited and ready to go."

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