Barring extensions over the next couple of weeks, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto and Astros outfielder George Springer will enter free agency as the two best position players on the open market. Realmuto is by far the premier catcher slated to reach free agency, where other options such as James McCann (White Sox) and Yadier Molina (Cardinals) will pale in comparison. Likewise, Springer’s easily the top center field-capable player who could soon become available. The question now is whether Realmuto or Springer will make more on his next contract.
Realmuto, a soon-to-be 30-year-old who has been the majors’ most valuable catcher since 2017, has an opportunity to set a record in terms of annual earnings at his position. Former Twin Joe Mauer holds the record at eight years and $184MM on the extension he signed in 2010. Realmuto doesn’t seem to stand much chance of eclipsing Mauer’s total guarantee, but the $23MM per annum the ex-Minnesota standout raked in appears to be a realistic target.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Springer earn a similar amount on a yearly basis. Although he is older than Realmuto (31), Springer has been a star-level performer since his career began in 2014. And dating back to last season, Springer has slashed .284/.376/.576 with 53 home runs. He ranks seventh among qualified hitters in wRC+ (153) and ninth in fWAR (8.4) since 2019.
Unlike Realmuto, Springer probably isn’t going to set any kind of record for earning power at his position. However, that doesn’t mean Springer won’t out-earn Realmuto on a five- or six-year deal (which MLBTR expects the two to receive). Both players will be saddled with qualifying offers, but that shouldn’t dim teams’ enthusiasm if and when they hit the market. Which player do you think will wind up with a higher guarantee on his next pact?
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