While the Marlins have previously made it clear that they hoped to discuss a long-term contract with star catcher J.T. Realmuto this offseason, it sounds like Realmuto’s camp has other ideas. In an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today (Twitter link, with audio), agent Jeff Berry of CAA Baseball told host Scott Braun that Realmuto “has informed the Marlins’ ownership, he’s informed their front office he’s not going to sign an extension in Miami.” Berry also indicated that he thinks Realmuto “will definitely be wearing a different uniform” by Spring Training 2019.
That, it should be stressed, still doesn’t mean Realmuto will be traded this offseason. He was among the most coveted trade assets in baseball last winter and remained with the Marlins, even after Berry publicly requested that the Miami front office trade his client. Fresh off a terrific season in which he batted .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers and 30 doubles, Realmuto will once again be in high demand. He’s projected to earn $6.1MM via arbitration, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, and he’s controlled through the 2020 season.
Adding Realmuto would be a transformative move for a number of hopeful contenders. The Dodgers and Phillies are set to lose Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos to free agency, while the Nationals have a clear vacancy behind the dish after a disappointing two-year deal with Matt Wieters has now reached its conclusion. The Astros, meanwhile, will bid adieu to Brian McCann, and the Rockies have had issues behind the plate for the past several seasons. Atlanta recently extended Tyler Flowers through 2019 but will see Kurt Suzuki reach free agency this weekend. The World Series champion Red Sox, meanwhile, received underwhelming production from the trio of Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and seldom-used Blake Swihart. Milwaukee could surely look to upgrade over Manny Pina and already pulled off one blockbuster with the Marlins (Christian Yelich). The Angels and Athletics have little in the way of immediately ready catching options in the organizations, and the Twins could use an upgrade behind the dish as well.
Frankly, even hopeful contenders with established options behind the dish are likely to inquire on Realmuto, as he’d be an upgrade over the vast majority of backstops in the league. Only Grandal and Salvador Perez hit more home runs than Realmuto, while only Ramos turned in a wRC+ mark greater than Realmuto’s 127 (that is to say, Realmuto produced at a rate roughly 27 percent better than a league-average hitter after adjusting for his league and home ballpark). The average MLB catcher’s offense, conversely, was 16 percent worse than that of a league-average hitter by that same measure.
The Marlins could opt to hang onto Realmuto and enjoy another season of excellent production from one of the game’s best young backstops. But the concrete affirmation from his agent that there will be no extension talks does figure to once again stoke the flames, so to speak, when it comes to trade interest in Realmuto. Given the sheer volume of contending clubs who could use help behind the plate, it stands to reason that the Marlins could extract a significant haul of prospects and young, MLB-ready talent in return for their 27-year-old All-Star. And, with the clock ticking and just two years of club control remaining, odds are that his trade value will never be higher than it is this winter.