Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has lost his arbitration case against the Marlins, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Realmuto was seeking a $3.5MM salary for 2018, but he’ll earn $2.9MM instead. The CAA Sports client is the first player to lose an arb hearing this offseason, as teammate Justin Bour, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Diamondbacks righty Shelby Miller won theirs earlier this week.
It’s unclear whether Realmuto will collect his 2018 salary from the Marlins or another club, given that the 26-year-old stands out as the rebuilding team’s most valuable trade chip. Realmuto has drawn significant interest this winter from the NL East rival Nationals, who have a glaring need behind the plate and a willingness to deal a couple of their top prospects to address it.
Regardless of which uniform he wears this year, Realmuto figures to continue as one of the game’s most valuable backstops. In 2017, his third season, he accumulated upward of 3.5 fWAR for the second straight campaign. Realmuto slashed a solid .278/.332/.451 with 17 home runs in a career-high 579 plate appearances, though his work behind the plate only drew mixed reviews. While Realmuto earned negative marks as a pitch framer from Baseball Prospectus between 2015-16, he was well above average in that department last year, according to BP. Conversely, StatCorner ranked him one of the game’s worst framers in 2017.
The validity of framing metrics may be somewhat up for debate, but it’s clear Realmuto is eminently valuable – particularly at such a low salary and with three years of control remaining. The fact that the arbitration cases for him and Bour are now settled leaves the Marlins with righty Dan Straily as their only arb-eligible player whose 2018 salary isn’t yet determined, as MLBTR’s Arb Tracker shows.