J.T. Realmuto has waited seven years to reach free agency. He’s spent his entire career playing for losing teams, never sniffing the postseason or even finishing with a winning record. For years, Realmuto was shrouded by trade rumors only to see the narrative change to speculation about his free agency once he was finally dealt. The best catcher in baseball finally has the chance to earn his due.
And yet, now that he’s finally available for any team to sign, there’s cause for concern about Realmuto’s long-term value. He’s set to enter his age-30 season in 2021, a precarious age for catchers — especially one like Realmuto. NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman joined the Nationals Talk podcast for an NL East roundtable and discussed why he thinks teams are worried about inking the former Phillies catcher to a long-term deal at his age.
“It’s a legit concern because so much of his game is predicated around his athleticism at that position [such as] the fact that he runs faster than any other catcher and the fact that he defends that position better than just about anybody,” Seidman said.
“Realmuto is definitely unique in that way and you worry that if the guy suffers lower-body injuries or just the wear and tear that a catcher deals with as he hits his early and mid-30s, if he’s sapped of some of that athleticism and he becomes closer to the middle of the pack in terms of baserunning and defense at his position, well then he’s not as valuable as he is right this second when really his value is based on his all-around skillset.”
The Phillies are the favorites to re-sign Realmuto, a key player on their roster who played well during the shortened 2020 campaign. After the New York Mets opted to sign James McCann rather than splurge on Realmuto, Seidman said that he sees the Nationals and Los Angeles Angels as the “top threats” to pry him away in free agency given their needs behind the plate. He put the odds at 50 percent that Realmuto re-signs with Philadelphia.
“It’s 50/50 right now,” Seidman said. “I think if it wasn’t for the pandemic and the uncertainty that this deal would’ve already been done. The Phillies would’ve re-signed J.T. Realmuto. The price tag was continuing to go up, though. It was at one point about a year ago this time, we were pegging it around about like $125 million and then with his strong summer the number looked like it was going to rise even farther because he hit for more power this season…than he ever has.”