Maybe this is a good sign.
Or maybe Jeff Berry is just a very friendly guy — albeit about 10 days late.
Berry is the agent for J.T. Realmuto, the free agent catcher that the Phillies still hope to re-sign.
As the final week of December approaches, there hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz on the state of Realmuto’s free agency.
We do know that one potential landing spot closed when the New York Mets signed James McCann.
And now we know that the lines of communication between the Phillies and Realmuto are at least open.
Dave Dombrowski, the team’s new president of baseball operations, admitted as much Tuesday as he announced the promotions of Sam Fuld (general manager), Jorge Velandia (assistant GM) and Terry Ryan (special assistant to the GM) to his inner circle.
Realmuto’s “agent actually called me yesterday — Jeff Berry,” Dombrowski said. “It really was not a negotiation. It was a welcome to the Phillies organization.
“I’ve known Jeff Berry for a long time and I talked to him and he welcomed me aboard and we talked about how my family was and we talked about how his family was and we said we would stay in contact.
“I expressed to him again how much we would love to have J.T. on board and that’s where it really ended at that point.”
Dombrowski said he didn’t read anything into the phone call other than Berry wanting to pass along some well wishes, but that doesn’t stop us from reading something into it …
Such as, if Berry simply wanted to offer his congratulations, why wouldn’t he have done it before Dombrowski had been on the job for 10 days?
Now, we’re not questioning Berry’s sincerity. But his reaching out to Dombrowski sure makes it seem as if he’d like to talk some more.
“I don’t read anything into it other than I’ve known him a long time and he reached out to me,” Dombrowski said. “I guess the good part is that we continue to have cordial conversations, and being fortunate enough to be in the organization in which he represents a quality player. It also makes it very simple for me to tell him how much we’d love to have him.”
The Phillies suffered revenue losses in excess of $100 million in 2020. That will impact what the team has to spend on free agents this winter. Still, managing partner John Middleton has called re-signing Realmuto a priority.
With the Mets out of the picture, other teams in the hunt for Realmuto may include the Nationals and Blue Jays. The Yankees can’t be ruled out, especially if they fail to re-sign DJ LeMahieu and end up with extra budget room. Ditto for the Astros, who could lose George Springer to free agency.
The next time Dombrowski and Berry talk, it might be an actual negotiating session.
In addition to catcher, the Phillies have holes at shortstop and in the bullpen. They may also look to improve things in center field.
Other than adding an infielder in the Rule 5 draft, the Phils, staring at a nine-year postseason drought, have yet to make an addition to their big-league roster this offseason.
Dombrowski said the Phils have spoken with some free-agent relievers.
“You never know about those things,” Dombrowski said. “My instincts are no, but could somebody call you back and say, ‘Hey, we want to join the Phillies?’ Maybe they will. I can’t say we’re close to anybody.”
The Phillies had the worst bullpen in the majors last year. With so many holes to fill in that unit, they will need some in-house relievers to step up.
Dombrowski is known to be aggressive in making trades and so far he’s had some talks with other clubs. But he’s not in a hurry to trade young players who might have a place in the team’s future.
“We’ve talked some to clubs, reaching out to me just finding out where they are,” Dombrowski said. “But I really haven’t had a lot of active trade conversations either.
“We’re not just one player away, so we’re not going to be giving up many minor-league players from our system. We want to build through the system, use as many of the guys as we can. It doesn’t mean we won’t trade certain players if we think it’s a good deal for us. But we’re not looking to empty our farm system for a specific player at this time.”