CLEARWATER, Fla. — This is going to be a busy week for the Phillies.
The first full-squad workout of the spring takes place Monday. New manager Joe Girardi, general manager Matt Klentak and managing partner John Middleton will all speak to the full squad before it takes the field.
On Wednesday, J.T. Realmuto's salary arbitration case will be heard in Phoenix.
Closer Hector Neris' salary arbitration case will be heard Friday in Phoenix.
And Saturday marks the start of the Grapefruit League schedule. The Phillies travel to Lakeland that day to play the Detroit Tigers.
Realmuto's arbitration hearing is the most fascinating matter on tap for the week. The All-Star catcher, who made $5.9 million last season, is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies have come in at $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides and pick one figure or the other. There is no middle ground.
Management came out on top in six of the first seven arbitration cases heard around baseball this month, but Realmuto would seem to have a good shot at winning one for the players based on his strong 2019 season. In addition to making his second All-Star team, he was named catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and 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 is in his third and final year of arbitration and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. To date, the highest-paid catcher in that class was Matt Wieters, who avoided a hearing with Baltimore and made $8.275 million 2015. Catcher Mike Napoli actually made more — $9.4 million — in a negotiated settlement with the Texas Rangers in 2012, but he was in his fourth year of arbitration because of his Super-Two status with the Anaheim Angels in 2009.
So, no matter how the arbitration panel rules, Realmuto's 2020 salary will be a record for an arbitration-eligible catcher.
Realmuto will be present for the hearing, as will Phillies officials. A ruling is generally made within 24 hours.
Hearings can sometimes create bad blood between a player and a team, but Realmuto has a pretty good handle on the situation. He knows it's just business and he's willing to go down this path to help boost the salary structure for his catching brethren.
Realmuto will remain a focal point of Phillies camp even after his hearing. The Phillies are hoping to preempt his free agency with a long-term contract extension that could come before or around opening day.
"Once we have a resolution to the one-year number, we'll come to the table and see if we can find common ground on a long-term deal," general manager Matt Klentak said. "I hope that we can. It would be nice to have some resolution prior to opening day just so it's not a distraction to mostly the player but even to us during the season. If we can't (negotiate an extension by opening day), we could always continue those talks during the season or even into free agency if we can."
Realmuto is expected to seek a contract extension of at least five years with an average value that could approach or top Joe Mauer's record $23 million AAV for a catcher.
The highest-paid Phillie ever is watching the Realmuto situation closely.
"I know there's a guy in (the clubhouse) that we need to sign to an extension," Bryce Harper said Sunday. "I think having a guy like J.T. for the next six years would help us.
"He's the best catcher in baseball. It all starts up the middle. You look at all the best teams in baseball. They usually have a pretty good staff and a really good catcher. So, I think having a guy like J.T. would be huge for us."