After several months of nonstop rumors centering on J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins finally found an offer to their liking for the superstar catcher Thursday, when they dealt him to the NL East rival Phillies. Entering the offseason, it seemed inevitable the rebuilding Marlins would part with Realmuto, who made it clear on multiple occasions going back to last winter that he was uninterested in signing an extension with the club.
At times this offseason, Realmuto drew interest from nearly half the league (14 teams), and with such a vast market for his services, Miami spent the past few months holding out for a Godfather offer from one of those clubs. In the end, the Marlins accepted a three-player return consisting of major league catcher Jorge Alfaro, who will immediately replace Realmuto in their starting lineup, two pitching prospects (right-hander Sixto Sanchez and lefty Will Stewart) and $250K in international slot money.
For the Phillies, the Realmuto acquisition is the latest win-now move in an offseason packed with them. Coming off their seventh straight non-playoff season and sixth consecutive sub-.500 campaign, the Phillies are aiming to push for a playoff spot in 2019 with newcomers Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson and possibly Bryce Harper or Manny Machado helping lead the way. And Realmuto – who was the undisputed premier catcher in the game last year – will help their cause beyond the upcoming campaign, as he’s controllable through 2020.
For the Marlins, the Realmuto trade is the latest win-later move dating back to last winter, when the low-budget club traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon for futures. In Alfaro, they received a player who showed a penchant for striking out and little ability to walk from 2017-18, his first two seasons of extensive major league action. But Alfaro was nonetheless respectable at the plate during that span, and the cannon-armed 25-year-old is fresh off a season in which he earned raves from defensive metrics. To this point, then, Alfaro has been a satisfactory pro. However, whether Alfaro will continue to serve as an acceptable starter or fall backward could hinge on improving his high-strikeout, low-walk ways, especially considering he won’t keep running a career .405 batting average on balls in play.
While Alfaro’s the only current major leaguer Miami got for Realmuto, Sanchez looks like the biggest prize. Despite the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder’s diminutive stature, each of FanGraphs, Baseball America, MLB.com and ESPN’s Keith Law rank Sanchez between fifth and 35th on their list of the majors’ top prospects. All of those outlets and individuals agree the flamethrowing Sanchez has the upside of a front-line rotation piece, and at 20 years old, he’ll breathe new life into the Marlins’ farm system. Although Sanchez hasn’t pitched above the High-A level yet, once he gets to Miami, he could emerge as its best starter since the Jose Fernandez era came to a tragic conclusion in 2016.
Stewart, 21, is far less intriguing than Sanchez, with MLB.com ranking him as the Marlins’ No. 25 prospect. Whereas Sanchez is a potential No. 1 starter who possesses electrifying velocity, MLB.com regards Stewart as a possible back-end type whose velocity is “average.” To Stewart’s credit, though, he did post tremendous results last year at the Single-A level, where he logged a 2.06 ERA with 7.13 K/9, 1.66 BB/9 and a 62.1 percent groundball rate, mimicking the best version of Dallas Keuchel in that regard.
With Alfaro, Sanchez, Stewart and a bit more international spending room in tow, there’s plenty for Miami to dream on going forward. The Phillies, meanwhile, made a substantial near-term upgrade behind the plate, albeit one that cost them their previous No. 1 prospect and another promising hurler. In your estimation, how did the two teams fare in this swap? Cast your votes below…