The Phillies reached agreement on 2020 contracts with four players on Friday but are likely headed to arbitration hearings with two others, including All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Realmuto and closer Hector Neris both exchanged salary proposals with the ballclub after the respective sides failed to come to agreements by Friday’s deadline.
Realmuto, widely considered the best catcher in baseball, seeks a 2020 salary of $12.4 million. The team filed at $10 million. Realmuto made $5.9 million in 2019.
Neris filed at $5.2 million and the team at $4.25 million. He made $1.8 million last season.
The Phillies were able to reach agreement on one-year contracts with pitchers Adam Morgan ($1.575 million), Zach Eflin ($2.625 million), Vince Velasquez ($3.6 million) and Jose Alvarez ($2.95 million).
Technically, the Phillies can still attempt to negotiate agreements with Realmuto and Neris, but hearings seem likely.
Realmuto and Neris will have their cases heard by an arbitration panel in Arizona during the first two weeks of February. The panel will hear arguments from both sides and select either the player’s or the team’s salary submission.
Realmuto went to arbitration as a member of the Marlins before the 2018 season. He had sought $3.5 million but lost his case and made $2.9 million that season.
Realmuto, who will turn 29 in March, built himself a good case heading into this final arbitration year. He caught 37 runners trying to steal in 2019, the most in the majors, and led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League.
Phillies officials have long stated a desire to sign Realmuto to a long-term contract extension that would prevent him from becoming a free agent at the end of the 2020 season. Realmuto has also expressed a desire to stay in Philadelphia. Talks between the two sides are still likely to happen in the coming weeks, after the two sides complete a one-year deal through the arbitration process.
And as for the belief that arbitration hearings do irreparable harm to the relationship between a player and his team – remember, the Phillies renewed Ryan Howard’s contract after his MVP season in 2006 and went to arbitration with him the next year. He ended up signing two huge contract extensions with the club before his career was over. So, this stuff is just the business of baseball and both sides understand that.
Realmuto’s case differs from Aaron Nola’s a year ago. Nola and the Phils were headed to a salary arbitration hearing last February. Days before the hearing was to take place, the two sides agreed on a four-year, $45-million extension that began in 2019.
If the Phils are successful in negotiating an extension with Realmuto, it would not kick in until 2021. That would give the Phillies some flexibility this season as they approach the competitive-balance tax threshold.
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