Although the Phillies are hanging in the National League wild-card race as time runs out in the regular season, it seems fair to say this year hasn’t quite gone according to plan for the club. After missing the playoffs for the seventh straight time in 2018, the Phillies reeled in more established talent than anyone over the winter, with star catcher J.T. Realmuto among several big names the team added. Some of those pickups haven’t produced as hoped, which helps explain why the Phillies are 3 1/2 games back, but Realmuto has more than held up his end of the bargain.
Acquired from the division-rival Marlins last February, Realmuto has been the game’s foremost backstop for the second straight season. The 28-year-old hasn’t been as formidable at the plate as he was in 2018, but his .277/.328/.496 line with 25 home runs in 576 PA is well above average for his position. And when the athletic Realmuto has gotten on, he has graded as one of FanGraphs’ premier base runners.
Of course, Realmuto’s value extends well beyond what he’s capable of doing on offense. He’s also a world-class defender, one who has thrown out an eye-popping 43-of-91 would-be base stealers this year. Realmuto’s 47 percent caught-stealing rate is good for first in the game, while he comes in third overall in Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average metric.
The all-around package Realmuto has given the Phillies this year has been worth 5.7 fWAR/4.4 bWAR, and it’s possible he’ll draw some NL MVP consideration as a result. Regardless, the Phillies love what they’ve seen, and they’re hopeful their union with Realmuto will last for a while. General manager Matt Klentak confirmed as much as a guest on MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman’s podcast.
Asked if the Phillies will work to extend Realmuto, Klentak told Heyman: “I think it’s fair to speculate that that’ll be one of our offseason priorities this year,” adding: “We hope he’s a guy who’ll be wearing a Phillies uniform for a long, long time. It’s something we”ll address this offseason, and hopefully we’ll be able to line up. We’ll see.”
Klentak also heaped praise on the well-rounded Realmuto for his contributions, saying: “There’s really nothing on the field that this guy can’t do. He has the best foot speed of any catcher in baseball — he doesn’t run like a catcher at all — he hustles all the time. He’s a really good fit for our city, with his style of play. In the second half, he’s been on fire at that plate. He was maybe more neutral in the first half, but in the second half he’s carried us at times. And obviously the defense is probably the separator. Not only the framing improvements, but also his ability to gun down runners. It’s a joke how good this guy is behind the plate — how quick he gets rid of the ball and how frequently he’s putting it right on the bag for our middle infielders to drop the tag down.”
It’s clear Philadelphia’s aim is to lock up Realmuto, though it’s not at immediate risk of seeing him walk. He’ll be controllable for another year via arbitration, where he’ll surely get a sizable raise on this season’s $5.9MM extension if the two sides don’t line up on a new deal. Realmuto, for his part, already indicated back in June that he’d be open to an extension. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained then, Realmuto shouldn’t have difficulty landing a lucrative contract of at least four years.