Jan. 26: Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com tweets that the while the Nats aren’t willing to include Robles or Soto, he’s gotten the sense that the Marlins may be willing to accept a package of prospects that doesn’t include either young outfielder as the headliner.
Jan. 25: As the Marlins’ offseason fire sale continues with the trade of Christian Yelich, it seems attention will now turn to catcher J.T. Realmuto. With three years of control remaining, he’s even closer to free agency than was Yelich, so perhaps only a sufficient offer stands in the way of a deal.
At this point, the Nationals are the organization that is “most heavily engaged” in pursuit of Realmuto, according to Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio (via Twitter). But the Fish are maintaining a high asking price, with Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeting that they are trying to pry top Nationals prospect Victor Robles loose.
Interest in Realmuto has been brisk ever since he reportedly requested a trade earlier in the winter. MLBTR took a look at Realmuto’s possible trade market recently, noting that the Nationals appear to be a strong match. As I explained in breaking down the Nats’ offseason outlook, the organization could be an ideal fit for Realmuto as they look into possible upgrades over veteran Matt Wieters and youngster Pedro Severino behind the dish.
Realmuto, who’ll turn 27 in March, is entering his first of three arbitration seasons after two-straight quality offensive campaigns. His arb case remains unresolved, but he’ll be cheap regardless. Realmuto, who is perhaps the only established young catcher who’s really available by trade at all, popped 17 home runs and slashed a solid .278/.332/.451 over 579 plate appearances in 2017. He’s an athletic backstop who grades well in throwing and blocking. Though his framing numbers have lagged considerably by measure of StatCorner, the Baseball Prospectus grading system felt he turned a corner and added value with his receiving effort in 2017.
So, can the sides hammer out an agreement? It seems something will have to give first. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post writes that the club isn’t willing to consider top prospects Robles and Juan Soto — each of whom ranks among the fifty or so best pre-MLB assets in baseball.
The Nats are obviously weighing some other considerations in their pursuit of Realmuto. With Bryce Harper entering a contract year, the elite outfield prospects are of added importance. Washington is also interested in free agent Alex Avila, Castillo notes, keeping a free-agent option available as well.
Plus, there are competing priorities. As Castillo explains, there’s also the possibility of adding a reliever, with the competitive balance tax operating as a limiting factor. The report suggests the Nationals are “not very high” on closer Greg Holland, who’s the best remaining relief pitcher MLBTR’s ranking of the top 50 free agents.
For Miami, it stands to reason that there’s a minimum price tag beyond which the team just won’t be willing to deal Realmuto. Even if he’s disappointed with staying on board, he’d surely be seen as a valuable asset to help along a young roster and could still be dealt at the trade deadline or next winter.
Then again, the Marlins could take a closer look at the Nationals’ possible trade chips. Righty Erick Fedde and lefty Seth Romero could each represent near-to-the-majors rotation pieces in Miami. And shortstop Carter Kieboom could profile as a future regular at the position for the rebuilding Marlins. Plus, Severino or Raudy Read could turn into young replacement assets behind the dish. Of course, whether and in what combination those players might be available isn’t known.
At the end of the day, one of the two organizations will need to blink, or both will need to find a creative way to compromise, in order to get something done. But it’s not just a staring contest. Other teams, too, are surely still looking into Realmuto and could attempt to slide in with better offers if the Nats continue to be protective of their best young assets.