4:30pm: While the Reds’ interest in Realmuto is genuine, tweets C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, the organization also doesn’t view him as a necessity and isn’t willing to overpay in order to acquire the All-Star.
Jan. 29, 9:13am: Whatever progress was made has clearly not yet resulted in a deal. It’s not just that the Marlins want to wait to see if other clubs will increase their offers. Rather, per Heyman (via Twitter), the Fish and the Reds are “still apart on prospects,” with other clubs also still engaged with the Miami organization.
Jan. 28, 3:59pm: MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that there are “substantive” talks ongoing between Cincinnati and Miami, adding that India is indeed a player being discussed as part of the return.
The Marlins, though, are still talking with the Dodgers and Padres, at the very least, and are seeking the best package of two to four players they can obtain.
3:03pm: Third base prospect Jonathan India, whom the Reds selected with the No. 5 overall pick in this past summer’s draft, is also of interest to the Marlins, Heyman tweets. The former Florida Gators star hit a combined .240/.380/.433 in 184 plate appearances this past season in his pro debut — though he struggled in the Class-A Midwest League a bit after tearing through the Rookie-level Appalachian League with a .995 OPS in 14 games (the type of production one would expect from a fairly polished college bat in Rookie ball).
2:37pm: The Reds are “making progress” in their effort to pry catcher J.T. Realmuto away from the Marlins, reports Fancred’s Jon Heyman (Twitter links). Prospects Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell and Hunter Greene are all of interest to Miami, Heyman notes, which isn’t exactly a surprise given that they’re the organization’s consensus top three farmhands. Cincinnati is reluctant to part with any of that trio, but the two sides still appear to be gaining steam. Tucker Barnhart could be part of the package going back to Miami if a deal is reached, Heyman adds.
Whether it’s with the Reds or another club, it does seem as though the Marlins are at long last moving toward a deal. SiriusXM’s Craig Mish tweets that the Padres have been making a “late charge” for Realmuto and suggests that the “final chapter of the saga is upon us.” Heyman tweets that the Padres and Dodgers have been among the most aggressive teams in pursuit of Realmuto in recent days, prior to Cincinnati’s increased efforts. The Braves, according to Mish, are also in the mix though perhaps not to the same extent as the other three.
If the Reds are to ultimately strike a deal, it’ll be the latest move in an aggressive offseason of trades that has dramatically altered the complexion of the club. Cincinnati has already acquired (and extended) Sonny Gray in a deal with the Yankees, and the Reds have also picked up Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in another pair of deals.
While catcher isn’t a clear-cut area of need given that Barnhart is a solid option behind the dish himself, Realmuto has emerged as arguably the game’s best all-around catcher over the past couple of seasons, meaning he’d still be an upgrade for the Reds if Barnhart is indeed shipped to Miami as part of the trade. It should be noted, too, that Barnhart took a step back in several key areas last year; the 28-year-old had a career-high strikeout rate (18.4%) and saw his OBP and average dip as his batting average on balls in play regressed closer to his career norm.
Even defensively, the well-regarded Barnhart saw his caught-stealing rate plummet from a league-leading 44 percent in 2017 to a below-average 24 percent in 2018. In spite of his 2017 Gold Glove Award and strong reputation, Barnhart has never graded out as a plus pitch-framer, but he posted the worst marks of his career in that regard in 2018 as well (per Baseball Prospectus).
All of that said, Barnhart is still a .257/.331/.374 hitter across the past four seasons, and while the resulting 88 OPS+ is below average relative to the rest of the league, it checks in a bit better than that of the average catcher over that same span. He’d be a better replacement for Realmuto than the majority of the free-agent options remaining on the market, and with $10.25MM guaranteed to him over the next three seasons (plus a 2022 option), he’d be plenty affordable even for the low-spending Marlins. He’d also give Miami another potential trade piece should the team look to flip him quickly this offseason or perhaps this summer at the deadline.