The Nationals “checked in” on the availability of star Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto within the past couple of weeks, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports in his latest notes column, though it sounds as if little has changed since the offseason. The Marlins are still seeking a “haul” in exchange for Realmuto, which only makes sense given the 27-year-old’s brilliant start to the season. Heyman suggests that the Nats aren’t willing to meet the price at this time.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd profiled Realmuto’s trade candidacy at length about a month ago, and Realmuto has maintained his strong play since that was written. Realmuto missed nearly a month to open the season thanks to a lower back issue, but he’s been among the game’s best-hitting catchers (if not the best-hitting catcher in the Majors) since being activated. In 179 plate appearances, he’s hitting .311/.376/.534 with six homers, 12 doubles and three triples. He’s also halted eight of 19 stolen-base attempts against him (42 percent) and turned in strong framing and blocking numbers, per Baseball Prospectus.
Given that terrific all-around profile, a modest $2.9MM salary in 2018 and an additional two years of club control beyond the current season, it’s no surprise that the Marlins were seeking a package of multiple young players headlined by an elite talent in the offseason. Reports at the time indicated that Miami was interested in both Victor Robles and meteoric rising star Juan Soto, who has shocked baseball by soaring from Class-A to the Majors in two months and raking at a .346/.443/.538 pace in his first 16 big league games — all at the age of 19. It’s hard to imagine that the asking price on Realmuto has done anything but increase.
Heyman writes that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Nationals are currently planning to keep Soto in the Majors even when the rest of their outfield is healthy. Washington was loath to part with either Soto or Robles in a Realmuto deal this offseason, and one would have to imagine that Soto, at least, has firmly entrenched himself as an untouchable young talent in the eyes of the D.C. front office. Robles, meanwhile, has played in only four games this year due to a hyperextended elbow, but the Nats have to be dreaming of a controllable outfield anchored by that pair of exciting potential stars beginning no later than 2019.
Other clubs, too, seem likely to gauge the asking price on Realmuto as the trade deadline approaches. The Twins are without Jason Castro for the rest of the season following knee surgery, while more definitive contenders like the Rockies and Brewers have received little in the way of production from their backstops. The market will likely bear other options — Wilson Ramos chief among them — but barring another injury, Realmuto will inevitably be the prize of the trade market in terms of available catching talent. Of course, because the Marlins control him for another two seasons, they also have the luxury of holding onto him should no offers to their liking materialize. Realmuto’s trade value will scarcely diminish from July to November, and rival teams would again line up to express interest should the Marlins hang onto him and market him in the offseason.