Christmas has arrived but there still isn't much clarity with J.T. Realmuto's free-agent situation.
We know that Phillies president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski had at least a cursory conversation with Realmuto's agent, Jeff Berry.
We know that the Mets, the most dangerous threat to the Phillies for Realmuto when the offseason began, already have their catcher in $40 million man James McCann.
We know that the Yankees, another potential threat with a shaky catching situation, are focused on retaining DJ LeMahieu, another top-tier free agent.
We know the Phillies want to keep Realmuto if they can work out a deal.
The Nationals, who've been connected to Realmuto since he was a Marlin, could be a fit for the two-time All-Star catcher, who turns 30 in March. Washington's offense sputtered last season after it lost Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper in back-to-back years and lost another underrated bat to retirement this winter in Howie Kendrick. Juan Soto and Trea Turner need some help.
The Angels would make sense for Realmuto, too. They're committed to winning, as evidenced by the $672 million they spent on Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon over the last 18 months. Albert Pujols' 10-year, $240 million contract ends after the 2021 season. The Angels have wasted the first decade of Trout's career. Like the Phillies and Nationals, they have too top heavy a roster. They've also had a catching situation that has been average at best during Trout's tenure (Martin Maldonado, Carlos Perez, Jeff Mathis, Chris Iannetta).
The Blue Jays have been mentioned in relation to Realmuto, but they're also after LeMahieu, and from a need standpoint, centerfielder George Springer is their most logical free-agent fit from the top tier.
So ... what about those Nationals? Could Realmuto end up with a Phillies division rival after all? We asked NBC Sports Washington's Nationals insider Todd Dybas on an NL East roundtable podcast this week.
"It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said. "There are multiple issues for the Phillies to address and there are certainly multiple issues for these guys (the Nats) to address. We've seen the Lerners spend money consistently but they always stop short of the (luxury tax). It's this weird space for them. It's completely unfair to call them cheap because they'll hand out large contracts and the payroll is high. But they will also stop if they think there's gonna be a tax penalty.
"I just don't see them paying the five years and the $125 million-plus for Realmuto now. I think they would rather do a Michael Brantley, with a decent player at third or decent player at first base situation. Michael Brantley and LeMahieu, if they were gonna spend-spend, I think that's where they would spend-spend because of the versatility for LeMahieu in particular, and how Michael Brantley hits is exactly how Davey Martinez wants people to approach things at the plate."
The Nats did make a move on Christmas Eve to bolster their offense, acquiring 1B Josh Bell from the Pirates for pitchers Wil Crowe (MLB-ready) and Eddy Yean (A-ball). The switch-hitting Bell broke out in 2019 when he hit .277 with 37 HR, 116 RBI and a .936 OPS. In 2020, he struggled from start to finish, hitting .226/.305/.364 and dropping from third or fourth in the Pirates' lineup to sixth.
The Phillies and Nats have similar roster-construction issues. The 2020 Phillies had stars at the top like Harper, Realmuto, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler but dealt with depth issues in the rotation, had a historically bad bullpen and could stand to improve defensively. The Nationals have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Soto and Turner but little behind them. This is also the final year of Scherzer's deal.
Both teams need more out of roster spots 10 through 40.
"I just don't see it happening," Dybas said. "The best thing about J.T. Realmuto this offseason in regard to reporting on the Nationals is that this should be the last year the Nationals will be associated with him. We've been doing this for like five years."