Phillies

Would J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins consider contract extensions with Phillies?

Would J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins consider contract extensions with Phillies?

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.”

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At the Yard podcast: Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Kris Bryant and more from Winter Meetings Day 2

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At the Yard podcast: Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Kris Bryant and more from Winter Meetings Day 2

Jim Salisbury is live from the Winter Meetings in San Diego to talk about Stephen Strasburg's massive new deal, what it means for Anthony Rendon, the trade market for Kris Bryant and more on the At the Yard podcast with Corey Seidman.

• Phillies' deal for Wheeler looks even better after the Strasburg news.

• What does it mean for Rendon?

• Phillies' infield alignment

• Adam Haseley the frontrunner to start in CF?

• Kris Bryant trade rumblings

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A Kris Bryant trade would be so complicated but so interesting for Phillies

A Kris Bryant trade would be so complicated but so interesting for Phillies

The Cubs and Kris Bryant are trending toward a divorce, which would add another layer to a surprisingly fast-paced MLB offseason and another viable option for the Phillies to improve their lineup.

Bryant is currently scheduled to become a free agent after the 2021 season. From the outside, there may appear to be no reason for the Cubs to explore a trade yet with two years of team control remaining.

But Bryant could very well reach free agency a year earlier, which would change the entire equation. Bryant, represented by Scott Boras, filed a grievance against the Cubs for manipulating his service time in 2015 to delay his free agency by a year. The hearing was in October. If you're a big baseball fan, you probably remember the incident. Bryant was clearly ready to rip in the majors out of spring training in 2015 but did not play his first game until April 17 with the Cubs, who wanted the cutoff date to pass. It was clear manipulation. It's unclear how MLB will rule. But you can't trade for the guy now before you know whether he comes with one year of team control or two.

What if he wins his grievance?

If Bryant wins the grievance and thus enters his walk year in 2020, the Cubs' incentive to trade him increases. They will want value for him before he likely leaves a contentious situation.

It would also decrease the Cubs' return for Bryant — an extremely valuable player with one year of club control is just worth less than one with two years remaining.

Most realistic suitors

Who are the teams most interested in a stud third baseman with a trade package that would appeal to the Cubs? 

Phillies, Dodgers, Braves make sense off the bat. Why wouldn't the Angels make a play if they strike out on Gerrit Cole? The Nationals have reportedly discussed Bryant with the Cubs. Many other teams will check in but not every one will have the werewithal to also pay him between $100 million and $200 million.

Not just a 3B

Bryant's positional versatility and athleticism increase his value, his next contract, and the size of his trade market. Teams could trade for him as a third baseman, right fielder, left fielder or first baseman. If the Phillies were to somehow acquire Bryant without giving up Alec Bohm (unlikely), it would not create the same positional blockage as an Anthony Rendon signing.

Interested teams are asking themselves right now how many years and how many dollars it's going to take to re-sign Bryant. Is he willing to sign an extension a year early? Would he prefer to reach the open market?

Less power than you'd expect

As of now, Bryant would not be in line for as rich a contract as the one signed by Nolan Arenado last February (eight years, $260 million) or the one Rendon signs this offseason. Bryant is a very, very, very good player. He's a former MVP. He's a career .284/.385/.516 hitter with full-season averages of 32 homers and 92 RBI. 

Really, though, Bryant hasn't lived up to the reputation of power hitter since that 39-homer MVP season in 2016. He hit 31 homers this past season with the juiced ball. That's a lot of homers in every season other than 2019, when it ranked 45th. The prior season, Bryant went deep 13 times in 457 plate appearances.

Still really, really good

Even when he's not hitting dingers, Bryant is still a productive hitter who can bat at the top or in the middle of the order. With the Cubs in recent years, he hit second. It resulted in low RBI totals but also three seasons with 100-plus runs scored. Bryant has always been a selective hitter and it served him in that two-hole. He has a .390 OBP the last three years.

Bryant can run, though he's not a stolen base threat. His defense at third base won't hurt you, at least not yet. Long term, he's probably better served in left field or at first base.

The other factor is age. Bryant turns 28 on Jan. 4. He is a year and a half younger than Rendon. He's eight months older than fellow Las Vegas native Bryce Harper, thus of course fitting into the Phillies' window.

Any Bryant trade will take time and there's almost no chance it happens this week. His service time issue first has to be resolved to better determine his trade value. Once that hurdle is cleared, an intriguing alternative to Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Didi Gregorius will be realistically attainable.

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