MIAMI — From established stars Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, to top pitchers Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom, to young studs Alex Bregman and Ronald Acuña Jr., a bevy of major league players have straight-armed approaching free agency and signed long-term contract extensions in recent months.
Phillies ace Aaron Nola was one of the first in a flurry of deals when he signed a four-year, 45-million contract in mid-February. Team management identified Nola as a keystone player and locked him up.
There are other players on the roster as important to the team’s foundation as Nola.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins comes up further down the road, after the 2023 season.
Both players have a desire to remain in Philadelphia long-term and both would be open to extensions.
“Absolutely,” Realmuto said before playing his former team, the Miami Marlins, on Friday night. “I love the city so far. I love the team. The organization has been great to me. Definitely something I could see in the future.”
Said Hoskins: “Yeah, of course I’d be open to it. I’d love to be here as long as they’ll have me.”
Both players were asked if there were any active talks going on.
Both said no.
According to sources, signing Realmuto is the Phillies’ priority simply because he comes up for free agency a lot sooner than Hoskins. The Phillies gave up some highly regarded young talent to get Realmuto in early February. At the time of the trade, general manager Matt Klentak admitted his desire to retain the catcher long term but he indicated that he'd let the two sides build a relationship and get to know each other before he sought to strike a deal. Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, said the same thing in early February. Berry was in Philadelphia when the Phils played Atlanta during the first weekend of the season and he did speak with Klentak, but a source familiar with the situation said there were no contract talks and that Berry was in town to peek in on clients on both teams.
Realmuto, 28, was an All-Star last season and is widely considered the top catcher in baseball. Phillies officials have even used that expression. He could be in line for a package approaching an average annual value of $20 million, similar to Russell Martin’s salary in each of the last two seasons of a five-year, $82 million contract.
Klentak does not comment on these type of contract matters, but he will surely initiate concrete talks with Realmuto’s handlers after this season — if not sooner.
In the meantime, Realmuto is content to play baseball — and a strong season will build value.
“For me, right now, I’m focused on the season and that’s pretty much where my focus is right now,” he said.
The Phillies actually mentioned the possibility of an extension to Hoskins before the 2017 season and his representatives were not ready to discuss the idea because it was extremely club-friendly and Hoskins still had the potential to build a lot of value. Since then, Hoskins has signed on with agent Scott Boras, who is a proponent of letting his clients build their price tags through the arbitration years and hit the free-agent market for big scores.
Nonetheless, Hoskins would be all ears if the deal were right.
“Scott told me from the get-go and he’s probably told all of his players this: If there’s a deal that makes a lot of sense for who you are as a player, who you are as a person and your family and all the other things that go into it, then we’re going to do it,” Hoskins said. “He’s not going to advise me against it just for the sake of advising me against it.
“If we’re going to have the team that we have right now, I want to be here as long as we can. I think we’ve got a pretty good chance to win a lot.”
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.