If you ask Phillies star Bryce Harper, the team needs to do what it takes to retain backstop J.T. Realmuto. Harper discussed that important contractual situation and other topics in a recent chat with Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
It’s debatable how best to interpret Harper’s comments — prediction or exhortation, or both — but not his underlying desire to see Realmuto stay with him in Philly. Harper lavished praise on Realmuto, saying: “I think the Phillies organization absolutely loves J.T. and our team absolutely loves him as well.”
Harper obviously isn’t negotiating contracts, but with twelve seasons left on his own monumental deal his opinion holds greater weight than those of your average veteran star. He says of Realmuto: “Us as an organization, we have to understand that he’s going to help us in the years to come and if you want the best catcher in baseball then we’ll make that happen.”
“I don’t think anybody should fear us not getting J.T. back,” Harper continued. “I want him more than anything, so I mean it’s something we need to make happen as an organization.”
That’s shy of a promise but something more than a mere expression of personal preferences. Harper did go on to say that the club will “hopefully” find a way to keep Realmuto around, and there’s no particular reason to believe he’s operating on inside information here, but it’s rather interesting to see how strongly he phrased things.
When last we looked, the Phillies and Realmuto had paused their discussions on a pre-season extension. Not long after, a leaguewide moratorium on contract discussions went into effect. Realmuto has reportedly sought a monster contract that would approach or even exceed the record catching deal of Buster Posey.
It’s fair to wonder whether the suspension of the 2020 season will have an impact on negotiations if and when they resume. Realmuto will certainly not have an opportunity at a typical platform year. And it’s anyone’s guess at this point how the 2020-21 free agent market will function.