The runway isn’t totally clear, but two significant developments this week have increased the Phillies’ chances of retaining elite catcher J.T. Realmuto.
One is the arrival of Dave Dombrowski, a president of baseball operations you do not hire if the goal is to tread water or rebuild. It doesn't mean the Phillies are going to spend a ton this offseason, but they will still try to keep the player they covet.
The other is the Mets’ reported four-year, $40 million agreement with James McCann, the second-best catcher on the free-agent market.
This removes a dangerous suitor from the Realmuto market. Entering the offseason, two of the Phillies’ biggest threats for Realmuto were the New York teams. But now the Mets have a catcher, and the Yankees’ attention is on retaining their own fan favorite, DJ LeMahieu.
McCann does not have the same track record of all-around productivity as Realmuto but over the last two seasons, Realmuto and McCann have been similar offensive performers.
McCann, 30, is 15 months older than Realmuto, though with catchers it is more about the workload and Realmuto has had as heavy a workload as any backstop since becoming a full-time player five years ago.
McCann is the less expensive option, and now the Mets will likely turn their attention to the top tier of free agents, which includes starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and outfielder George Springer. Already this offseason, the Mets have added McCann, brought back Marcus Stroman via the $18.9M qualifying offer and signed reliever Trevor May to a two-year deal.
Which other teams could be after Realmuto? Don’t count out the Nationals, who have long had interest in him and have had to deal with him in the division his entire career. The Nats have a history of spending aggressively and will have more payroll space with Max Scherzer hitting free agency after 2021.
The Angels were after McCann and are committed to adding. They can't keep wasting these prime years from Mike Trout and they know it. They too are players for Realmuto.
On Tuesday’s Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed how the market for Realmuto would change with the Mets out of the running.