'Sign Realmuto!' says billboard truck circling Citizens Bank Park

'Sign Realmuto!' says billboard truck circling Citizens Bank Park

From pizza boxes delivered to Bryce to box trucks with electronic billboards on them, Phillies fans are trying to send a message to Matt Klentak and the Phillies.

Sign J.T.

Philadelphia fans have been voicing their opinion on their desire for the Phils to lock up Realmuto longterm for a while now.

But after the Phillies catcher painted a grim look at the contract proceedings last week, fans have taken their efforts to new heights.

First, one of the best pizza and cheesesteak makers in town, Angelo's on 9th Street, sent a delicious looking pie to Bryce Harper with a message on the inside of the box: Sign J.T.!

Harper shared an image of the box to his Instagram.

And then today, longtime Phillies scribe Todd Zolecki shared a photo of this truck circling Citizens Bank Park on Monday.

"SIGN REALMUTO!" can be seen in glowing lights.

It's not clear whether Phillies GM Matt Klentak saw the truck or ordered pizza recently, but we're pretty sure he's still getting the message from fans.

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Who is the best player in the NL East?

Who is the best player in the NL East?

Calling the NL East loaded would be an understatement.

The division has the top two starting pitchers in the National League in Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, whom the Phillies face tonight. Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler ... so many upper echelon arms in the division.

Among position players, the Braves have two perennial MVP candidates in Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. 

The Nationals have one in Juan Soto. (The division thanked the Angels for signing away Anthony Rendon.) 

The Phillies have a former MVP in Bryce Harper and one of the best all-around players in baseball in J.T. Realmuto. 

The Mets have two exciting newcomers in Pete Alonso, who hit 53 homers as a rookie last season, and Jeff McNeil, who has hit .319 in 882 plate appearances since debuting in 2018.

Who is the best player in the NL East?

Jim Salisbury (Phillies insider)

There's no right or wrong answer to this question. You could go with Freeman, Acuña Jr., Soto, Realmuto, Harper, Scherzer or deGrom and not be wrong. If I were building a team long term, I'd go with Acuña or Soto. If I needed to win a game right now, I'd go with deGrom. That kind of stinks for the Phillies because they have to face him Friday night. In an era of small parks, tiny strike zones, rock hard bats and baseballs that fly like Titleists, he has won the National League Cy Young Award the last two seasons. He regularly racks up 200 innings and 240-plus strikeouts. I'm figuring that most of my colleagues will go with offense; I'll go with something that stops offense — starting pitching — and someone who does it well.

Ricky Bottalico (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live analyst)

No-brainer: Soto. A perfect home run swing. Doesn't strike out a lot. He missed the beginning of the season but doesn't look even a little impacted by the time off. He's hitting .414 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in only eight games. He's 21 years old with a long career ahead. 

Corey Seidman (Phillies writer, Pre/Postgame Live analyst)

Even though Freeman is still probably the more feared hitter, I'm going with Acuña, who I'd have slightly ahead of Soto and Freeman for his five-tool skill set. Acuña can do it all — hit close to .300, hit for power, run, field, throw. Last season he hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs and led the NL with 37 stolen bases and 127 runs scored. He hits righties and lefties alike. 

He's also not even 23 years old yet, and he's on one of the best contracts in all of baseball — an eight-year, $100 million contract that pays him just $1 million in 2020.

I do think Freeman and Soto are slightly better overall hitters — Freeman because the guy just exudes clutch and Soto because his plate selection is at the very highest level. But the gap is not large enough to ignore the other ways Acuña offers more overall value.

Michael Barkann (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live host)

Not going with deGrom, Freeman, Acuña Jr. or even Soto. Call me a homer ("you're a freakin' homer!") but Harper is the man. He entered Thursday night with numbers that would translate to 50 homers and 125 RBIs over a full season. He's put up MVP-type numbers so far this season, then there's his defense and leadership. Number 3 is the answer.

Casey Feeney (Phillies producer)

In my mind, there are seven players worthy of consideration: Harper, Soto, Scherzer, deGrom, Alonso, Freeman and Acuña Jr.

Because of their everyday impact, I’m inclined to go with a position player over a pitcher. Perhaps there is bias from watching him everyday, but I would take Harper ahead of the other position players mentioned.

Freeman and Soto are better pure hitters than Harper. Acuña Jr is a more electric athlete and might have the highest ceiling of any player in baseball. But Harper strikes me as the most complete package of the group. He’s also being asked to carry an otherwise incomplete roster to a greater degree than the other hitters mentioned.

Sean Kane (Phillies Pre/Postgame Live producer)

There are so many great players in the NL East — several Cy Young caliber pitchers and MVP-worthy position players. But Freeman is the best player in the division. He’s certainly the guy I would pick first for my team. His skills speak for themselves. He’s one of the best all-around hitters in baseball, he plays a tremendous first base and he’s a better baserunner than he gets credit for. Most importantly, he sets the standard for the team that sets the standard in the NL East. He is the unquestioned leader of the Braves, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He always plays hard and he always makes the right play. If you’re interested in winning baseball games, Freddie Freeman is your guy.

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Phillies injury update: Matt Klentak on timelines for David Robertson and Ranger Suarez

Phillies injury update: Matt Klentak on timelines for David Robertson and Ranger Suarez

In a normal season, with this bullpen, we'd know exactly what the Phillies' trade deadline goal would be. In a 60-game season, with questions ranging from, "Will MLB actually finish its schedule?" to "What would a 2020 World Series title truly mean?" the approach changes.

Teams are less likely to make win-now trades ahead of the 2020 MLB trade deadline, which is Aug. 31. Selling the farm this summer for an immediate upgrade makes less sense than ever given the uncertainties of the season itself and how much money will be spent in free agency this winter. Plus, with 16 teams making the playoffs, there will be fewer sellers.

You could still see teams bite on players who can help in 2020 and beyond. A team like the Phillies, for example, knows it will need relievers in 2021, so acquiring a rental would be less logical.

Barring a trade for the Phillies, a bullpen "acquisition" could, maybe, be the return of one or both of their sidelined relievers: David Robertson and Ranger Suarez. Both pitchers transitioned this week from rehabbing in Clearwater to rehabbing at the Phillies' satellite site in Lehigh Valley as the organization gets closer to adding them to its 60-player pool.

Robertson, signed prior to 2019 to a two-year contract worth $23 million, has not appeared in a game since last April 14. He made just seven appearances for the 2019 Phillies before being shelved by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery last August.

Suarez spent all of summer camp on the COVID injured list. The 24-year-old lefty was one of the Phillies' best pitchers last season (and one of the only ones who made progress), posting a 3.14 ERA in 37 relief appearances.

When could we see them in Philadelphia, if at all in 2020?

"Ranger has one or two bullpen sessions to go before he starts facing live hitters in Lehigh," GM Matt Klentak said Thursday. "I don't have an exact timetable for when he will return to the active roster. I would guess at this point we'd be looking at some time at the end of the month or as we're transitioning into September, about the halfway point of the season. That's assuming things go according to plan. He's an athletic guy who's durable and bounces back well pretty well. I'm hoping he'll be on the front end of any timeline we might have for him just knowing the type of competitor and athlete he is.

"Robertson — he's coming back from surgery and there's more that goes into it than just developing arm strength. He's been throwing for longer than Ranger has but we're trying to refine his delivery, his command, trying to make sure that when he gets here he's effective. We don't have quite the same roster luxury with him as we do with Ranger. If Ranger has some bumps along the way, in theory you could option him — not that we want to do that, we want him to come and pitch meaningful innings for us — but we could do that. With David because of his experience level, once he's here he's going to be here. We have to make sure he's in the best position to be successful right from the jump. I don't have an exact date, but I think it's likely we see Ranger before we see David."

Klentak was asked about the Phillies' horrific bullpen, which has a 10.13 ERA, by far the worst in the majors and ranging on unprecedented. Phillies relievers allowed seven more runs Thursday night in the 11-4 loss to the Orioles.

"One of the things we need to do is just continue to establish some rhythm in our bullpen," he said. "I'm not going to pin all of the struggles on COVID and the layoffs or the players who themselves may have had COVID and are coming back from that. I don't know that to be the case. That may contribute to this. I don't know that that's the only factor. I know that velocities across the league are down. There are quite a few bullpens that are struggling in the early going.

"It really is a balancing act of trying to make sure that we're running out the best arms in the best situations but also allowing the players to get comfortable.

"I'll use Tommy Hunter as an example. I don't think he'll mind me singling him out. When Tommy Hunter is throwing 91 miles an hour, he's getting hit. When Tommy's coming out and throwing 94 or 95, he's as good a setup man as there is in the game right now. And we've seen both versions of that in the last week. It's hard for him not knowing which he's going to be on a given night. It's hard for Joe (Girardi) to make decisions. But I do think, as we get deeper into the season, these guys have more reps under their belts, some of these things are going to come around. We have to play that out."

The Phillies have not gotten the version of Hunter that Klentak claims is "as good a setup man as there is in the game right now" when healthy. His last high-quality season was 2017, before he was a Phillie. He's made 75 appearances over three seasons as a Phillie and has a decent 3.79 ERA but has been oft-injured. This is not meant to pick on Hunter, who could still be a decent piece of someone's bullpen, just probably not the answer. And if Klentak truly thinks a healthy Hunter is as good as any setup man in baseball, it helps explain how this bullpen was constructed so poorly.

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