Trying to hammer out a contract extension with J.T. Realmuto was one of the most important items on the Phillies' to-do list this month, but that, like everything else in the baseball world, is now on hold because of the coronavirus health crisis.
General manager Matt Klentak has a policy of not commenting about ongoing negotiations, but he did confirm Tuesday that talks with Realmuto's representatives have paused.
Realmuto is signed for 2020 at $10 million. The urgency for both sides to reach agreement on a contract extension would ramp up when opening day arrives. At the moment, there is no firm date for starting the season. All anyone knows is that it won't happen until at least May 11 — and that's not a sure bet.
Realmuto is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. The Phillies have made it known that they'd like to lock him up long term. Realmuto figures to at least match the largest average salary ever given to a catcher — Joe Mauer's $23 million per season — in a multi-year deal. He could look to maximize his payday on the free-agent market but that would come with the risk of playing out the season without the security of an extension. Time will tell.
Klentak reported that "less than 20" players have remained in the Clearwater area for informal workouts at the team's training facility. The remainder of the players have followed through on Major League Baseball's recommendation to head home. Players who have stayed are working out at staggered times to avoid large groups.
On the minor league side, players have been sent home with the exception of some who are rehabilitating injuries and a handful from Venezuela.
"The priority in the last 72 hours has been making sure that all of our players are safe," Klentak said. "It's been a group effort, a very collaborative effort to get everybody home.
"We've encouraged every member of the Phillies, whether staff or player, to get where you need to be. There's no judgment. Everybody should feel comfortable making their own personal decisions and being safe."
It remains unclear how teams will proceed with some transactional business during baseball's pause. For instance, four players in Phillies' camp on minor-league deals — pitchers Francisco Liriano and Anthony Swarzak and position players Neil Walker and Logan Forsythe — can opt out of their contracts on Thursday, not that there are any other teams in operation to go to at the moment. The union and MLB are still discussing whether opt-outs still apply at this time.
Matters of player compensation and scheduling — what will the new season look like when it's green-lighted? — are also being discussed.
Klentak said there was "no update" on the condition of ailing reliever Seranthony Dominguez, who suffered a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury and could be facing season-ending surgery before the season even starts.
"We are still working through that," Klentak said.