Phillies headed to arbitration with J.T. Realmuto and Hector Neris

Phillies headed to arbitration with J.T. Realmuto and Hector Neris

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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How many of MLB's $100 million men actually lived up to the contract?

How many of MLB's $100 million men actually lived up to the contract?

What percentage of baseball players who signed a contract of at least $100 million actually lived up to it?

Take a guess and remember the number you picked.

With J.T. Realmuto's arbitration hearing in the rearview mirror, the conversation shifts to his next contract. Barring some cataclysmic development, Realmuto's next deal will exceed $100 million.

Back in September, I predicted five years, $112.5 million.

Realmuto is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $23 million per season, matching Joe Mauer’s record salary for a catcher, over a five- or six-year deal. (Five years at $23 million a pop would be $115 million.)

In general, contracts this large miss more often than they hit. We went back through all the contracts of at least $100 million that were signed through 2017 to put an actual number on it. What is the success rate?

Excluded here are players who signed their contracts in 2018, '19 or '20. Too early to judge. You won't see Bryce Harper or Zack Wheeler below for that reason. The list runs through 2017 and includes 67 players.

A lot of these deals were memorably bad. That's the reality of a gargantuan contract that, for so long in baseball's history, went to a player for past performance more than future projection.

Recall the percentage you picked.

The number is 30%. Yep, 7 out of 10 deals of at least $100 million went south. Some of you might think that sounds high, some low. Here is the full list. A few are arguable.

Yes (20)

Mike Trout (2015-20)
Albert Pujols (2004-10)
Freddie Freeman
Miguel Cabrera (2008-15)
Derek Jeter
Max Scherzer
Clayton Kershaw
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
Todd Helton
Kevin Brown
Buster Posey (?)
CC Sabathia
Carlos Beltran
Matt Holliday
Cole Hamels
Zack Greinke
Jon Lester (?)
Masahiro Tanaka
Manny Ramirez

Posey and Lester underperformed during long portions of their deals but they were also pivotal players on championship teams. Hamels and Holliday are right on the fringe.

No (47)

Kyle Seager
Evan Longoria
Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Braun
Homer Bailey
Justin Upton
Jose Reyes
Yoenis Cespedes
Dustin Pedroia
Jordan Zimmermann
Ken Griffey Jr.
Cliff Lee
Elvis Andrus
Mike Hampton
CC Sabathia
Josh Hamilton
Ryan Howard
Yu Darvish
Jayson Werth
Vernon Wells
Barry Zito
Matt Cain
Johnny Cueto
Shin-Soo Choo
Alfonso Soriano
Johan Santana
David Wright
Carl Crawford
Eric Hosmer
Jacoby Ellsbury
Adrian Gonzalez
Troy Tulowitzki
Matt Kemp
Chris Davis
Mark Teixeira
Jason Heyward
Joe Mauer
Prince Fielder
David Price
Joey Votto
Jason Giambi
Robinson Cano
Albert Pujols (current deal)
Miguel Cabrera (current deal)
Alex Rodriguez
Giancarlo Stanton
Carlos Lee

Most of these deals were justifiable at the time. Some, like Chris Davis, Homer Bailey, Elvis Andrus and Vernon Wells were viewed immediately with skepticism.

A few — Votto, Teixeira — could go either way. Votto has been productive throughout his Reds career but the power has almost completely disappeared. Would the Reds have paid him $225 million if they knew that he'd miss as many All-Star games as he'd make throughout the deal and that by Year 6 he'd be a .280 singles hitter with a high OBP? He's been really good but this underscores how hard it is to live up to such a deal.

The two catchers above are Posey and Mauer. Posey, by 31, was a shell of himself offensively. This is the risk you run with elite catchers. The wear-and-tear catches up. Mauer didn't deliver either. He played well during his eight-year, $184 million contract but by Year 5, his catching days were over, and a lot of his value was tied to his position.

And as Phillies fans experienced with Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard, unpredictable injuries can ruin the party as well.

The Phillies still have to re-sign Realmuto. They traded their top prospect for him a year ago and he'd be impossible to replace during a win-now period. The Phillies did not trade for Realmuto to have him for two years. They did it to have him for closer to eight years.

Beyond that, Realmuto looks like a solid bet to deliver on his next contract because of his elite defense and an offensive skill set that is among the two or three best at his position. His well-roundedness should make the Phils feel better about the money they have to pay. It's not as if Realmuto's game is all about power, or all about defense, or all about speed, and slippage in one area would sap him of his effectiveness. He is valuable in every phase and that value is only enhanced by his intangibles.

Just don't ignore the precedent above. Three out of 10 is good enough to get you in the Hall of Fame, but it's definitely not a high hit rate when it comes to nine-figure deals.

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Phillies avoid arbitration, reach deal with Hector Neris

Phillies avoid arbitration, reach deal with Hector Neris

The Phillies have avoided a salary-arbitration hearing with Hector Neris, settling with the reliever for $4.6 million, according to a league source.

The deal includes a team option for $7 million in 2021, which would have been Neris’ final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency. The team option is a $7 million base salary but could rise with escalators.

The settlement with Neris comes days after the Phillies participated in their first arbitration hearing in 12 years, which went in their favor over J.T. Realmuto. 

Neris has a 3.29 ERA in his six seasons with the Phillies and last season set career bests in saves (28), WHIP (1.02) and opponents’ batting average (.186). 

The 30-year-old made $1.8 million in 2019. 

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