Phillies

J.T. Realmuto offers grim view of contract talks with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto offers grim view of contract talks with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto began his first chat with reporters since baseball’s re-start with a request on Thursday.

He asked that questions about his contract situation with the Phillies be kept to a minimum. 

But in explaining why, Realmuto said plenty.

“We were in the really preliminary stages (of negotiations) early on in spring training before the pandemic and we haven't really gone anywhere since then, so if we could focus on the team here and speak a little bit less about myself that would be greatly appreciated,” the All-Star catcher said.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two separate comments from two different people involved in this drama that would suggest negotiations aren’t going particularly well

Ten days ago, general manager Matt Klentak, who rarely even entertains a question about ongoing contract negotiations, offered this on the state of talks with Realmuto’s camp:

"The landscape that we left in March is different from the one we return to now. We just have to see how that manifests itself in our discussions. We still love the player. We'd still love to have him in red pinstripes for the long haul. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels. We just need to play that out."

Opening day for the shortened 2020 season is just two weeks away. Given the tone of the remarks offered by both sides, it’s difficult to see the Phillies and Realmuto coming to terms on a deal before then. Once the season starts, Realmuto will be just a few months away from free agency, a place that elite players fantasize about.

Realmuto was pressed on the topic of what appear to be stagnant negotiations with the Phillies.

“There's no frustration,” he said. “I understand the business of baseball. I'm here to play baseball and focus on this team winning and getting to the playoffs.”

The business of baseball in the pandemic year of 2020 means revenues are down all over the game. Phillies managing partner John Middleton, in an email to club employees back on June 1, said the team was braced to lose “significantly more than 100 million” this season.

Realmuto, 29, has long made it known that he’s looking to significantly raise the salary bar for all catchers in his next contract – be it with the Phillies or out on the open market. Something rivaling Joe Mauer’s average salary of $23 million – a record for a catcher – in the form of a multiyear deal seemed to be the starting point for Realmuto and it really didn’t seem that unreasonable over the winter.

Then the pandemic hit. The game shut down. Even when the games come back in two weeks, there will be no fans in the stands. The “gate” accounts for about 40 percent of the revenues that most teams bring in. Teams will reap some television revenues when the shortened, 60-game season begins in two weeks, but who knows if the season will be completed with COVID-19 spiking in a number of baseball states, and who knows if there will even be fans in the stands next season. The world begs for a vaccine. Baseball’s next free-agent class begs for a vaccine.

Realmuto has concerns about how "the new landscape" will affect the overall free-agent market this winter, but, personally, he’s undaunted about the prospect of hitting the market.

“It definitely concerns me,” he said. “Necessarily not for myself, but it does concern me for the free-agency class as a whole. I mentioned a few months back that the top guys usually find a way to get their dollars. Teams are going to want them, you know. Maybe if it's not 20 teams that are in on you, now there'll be five to 10. I just think that a lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and actually go for it instead of backing off. As half the league will probably be trying to cut revenue and save some money and the other ones will look at it as an advantage to maybe go forward and press forward. I think that it could affect free agency as a whole, but for myself, I'm not really too worried about it.”

Even with negotiations not progressing, Realmuto expressed affection for the Phillies organization.

“My opinion of the organization has not changed one bit,” he said. “I love this organization. They've been great to me and my family since I showed up. From top to bottom, they're just good people and they care about baseball, and that's really important to me.”

It’s still quite possible that Realmuto and the Phillies find a way to strike a long-term marriage. Baseball negotiations can endure painful moments and still end up with everyone happy. But no baseball negotiation has ever had to play out against a pandemic that has caused the game to hemorrhage revenues. Had this pandemic hit 18 months ago, Relamuto’s teammate, Bryce Harper, probably would not have landed a $330 million contract.

Harper wants Realmuto to remain with the Phillies. He wants him to get paid. He made that clear when he shouted, “Sign him!” during an intersquad game at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday. 

“I hope he owns a team one day, honestly,” Realmuto said. “I might be able to catch until I'm 60 if he owns a team.

“Honestly, it’s all in good fun. I appreciate the support and the respect is mutual there. He has a little fun with it so I don't mind it too much.

“From a public standpoint, it doesn't bother me how much it's being talked about. For me I'm going to focus on this season and focus on helping this team win and that's really all I can do.”

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Clutch hits from Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto and elusiveness from Roman Quinn key Phillies' walk-off win

Clutch hits from Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto and elusiveness from Roman Quinn key Phillies' walk-off win

Bryce Harper's base-hit in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Roman Quinn from second base and lifted the Phillies to a dramatic 6-5 win over the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

Hector Neris blew a one-run lead with two outs in the top of the ninth. It was Neris' second blown save this week.

The winning run came with some drama. Mets rightfielder Michael Conforto made a strong throw to the plate, but Quinn, who had taken a wide turn at third, got his hand to the plate. The play was reviewed and the Phillies shouted in triumph when the verdict was rendered.

The Phillies played over a slew of early miscues in winning for just the second time in seven games and snapping a three-game losing streak.

The Phils are 6-9.

The Mets are 9-12.

Prospect exits early

Right-hander Spencer Howard left his second big-league start in the top of the fourth inning with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Howard was not sharp. He allowed seven hits and two walks in 3⅓ innings. He gave up four runs, one of which was unearned. Howard had trouble locating his off-speed stuff. He hung a changeup to Dominic Smith and a breaking ball to Robinson Cano and they hit back-to-back homers in the third inning to put the Mets ahead, 4-2.

More will be known on Howard's condition in the coming days. The Phillies will have to scramble for pitching next week if he has to miss a start. Vince Velasquez could take Howard's spot, but the Phils will need starting pitching beyond that because they play a doubleheader Thursday.

Unacceptably sloppy

The Phillies, who lost a game to Baltimore earlier this week on two late and ugly misplays, made a host of miscues early in the game.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius botched the transfer on a potential double-play ball that cost Howard a run in the first inning. They misplayed three balls in the outfield. J.T. Realmuto made a throwing error that set up a run. They also made two baserunning mistakes in scoring position.

Somehow, they managed to win the game.

Ironically, another potential miscue turned into an important defensive play for the Phillies in the top of the eighth. Billy Hamilton swiped second base and the ball squirted away from second baseman Jean Segura as he tried to make the tag. Gregorius alertly retrieved the ball and made a perfect throw to Alec Bohm at third to nail Hamilton.

Just Terrific

Realmuto's three-run homer in the fifth gave the Phils a 5-4 lead. It was his eighth of the season. He has 20 RBIs.

Bullpen

The Phillies' much-maligned bullpen — it entered with an ERA of 10.13, worst in the majors — did the job for most of the night. Lefty Adam Morgan got one of the biggest outs of the game when he retired dangerous Pete Alonso (53 homers last season) on a fly ball to the wall in center to strand two runners and protect a one-run lead in the top of the sixth. 

Morgan entered with one out and inherited a runner at second. He got the second out then walked lefty-hitting Conforto to set up a potentially uncomfortable duel with Alonso and his right-handed power stick. Morgan's fastball has lacked zip so far this season. He muscled up and threw a first-pitch fastball, 93 mph, and Alonso hit it well but not well enough.

Tommy Hunter got five big outs late in the game. He started a huge double play in the seventh by knocking down a Wilson Ramos smash with his bare hand.

Jose Alvarez and Blake Parker both pitched a scoreless inning.

Neris allowed a hit and a walk to open the ninth and Robinson Cano tied the game at 5-5 with a two-out hit in the top of the ninth.

Though that run hurt, the Phils' bullpen was able to pitch 5⅔ innings of one-run ball.

Bohm contributes

Rookie third baseman Bohm singled home the Phillies' first run. It was his first big-league RBI. He also made a nice running grab of a foul ball down the left-field line to help Morgan preserve a one-run lead in the sixth.

With Bohm at third, Jean Segura has moved to second base and Scott Kingery to a utility role. Kingery spoke about the slump that cost him his starting job, and some nagging injury issues, before the game.

Up next

Aaron Nola (1-1, 2.79) opposes Mets lefty Steven Matz at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night.

Nola has allowed two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts against the Yankees and Braves, respectively. He has racked up 22 strikeouts and walked just one over that span.

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Phillies pitcher Spencer Howard exits with hand injury in 4th inning

Phillies pitcher Spencer Howard exits with hand injury in 4th inning

Spencer Howard, the Phillies' prized right-handed pitching prospect, exited Friday night's start in the top of the fourth inning with what looked like a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Howard, facing the New York Mets in the second start of his big-league career, left trailing, 4-2. He was replaced by Jose Alvarez.

Howard gave up single runs in the first and second innings and two in the third on back-to-back home runs by Dominic Smith and Robinson Cano. Both homers were on hanging off-speed pitches.

More on Howard's condition later.

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