The Phillies and pending free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto discussed a contract extension before Major League Baseball put a freeze on transactions in March because of the COVID-19 shutdown. That freeze lifted last week, but the Phillies and Realmuto have not restarted talks, as Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays.
Addressing Realmuto’s status Monday, general manager Matt Klentak said: “Candidly, we’ve been kind of nose to the ground — intake screenings and getting people here — so I haven’t touched base with [Realmuto’s camp]. As fas as a timeline, I just don’t know. I need to talk to them.”
Realmuto expressed optimism about a potential extension just a month and a half ago, but the game’s financial situation has certainly worsened since then. Therefore, it’s highly questionably whether any soon-to-be free agent – even a star like Realmuto, who’s regarded as the sport’s foremost backstop – will do as well on his next contract as he would have before the pandemic.
Klentak, for his part, acknowledged that the game has changed from a monetary standpoint in the past few months, saying “The landscape that we left in March is different from the one we return to now.” And while the Phillies would “still love to have [Realmuto] in red pinstripes for the long haul,” according to Klentak, he added that “there’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels. We just need to play that out.”
Before extension talks came to a halt, Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, may have been seeking a contract in the five-year, $130MM range for his client, Lauber reports. That payday – one that would average $26MM per year – would make Realmuto the highest-paid catcher in baseball history on an annual basis, surpassing the $23MM the now-retired Joe Mauer collected from the Twins on the mega-deal he inked in 2010 (Mauer, though, was on a much longer and more expensive contract worth $184MM over eight seasons). Whether that was a realistic asking price in the first place is debatable, but considering the sport’s less favorable financial circumstances – not to mention that Realmuto will turn 30 before the 2021 campaign begins – it will likely be even more difficult to obtain in the coming months.