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REPORT: Phillies “making progress” in trade talks for J.T. Realmuto

Could the Phillies be making a play for the best young catcher in baseball?

Toronto Blue Jays v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has been on the trade block for the entire off-season, and the Phillies have been on the very outer edges of the discussion as they pursued the biggest free agents on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

However, multiple reports indicate the Phils are ramping up their discussions for the young Miami backstop.

The Phillies already have a young catcher with a lot of upside in Jorge Alfaro who had a better-than-you-think season in 2018. As I wrote about in a piece earlier on Tuesday, Alfaro has a chance to be a top-10 catcher in baseball by the end of the season. However, Realmuto was the best catcher in baseball last season.

In 125 games he hit .277/.340/.484 with 21 home runs, 74 RBIs and 74 runs scored, with a wOBA of .353 and a wRC+ of 126. His 4.8 fWAR was, by far, the best among all big league catchers last year, and it’s scary to imagine but he could be even better once he leaves Miami.

Last season, Marlins Park ranked dead last in terms of home run environment, and in 2017, when Giancarlo Stanton led the Majors with 59 homers, Marlins Park ranked just 25th. And looking at his home/road splits, Realmuto could see a big boost in his numbers by leaving Florida.

Last season at home he had an OPS of .773, a wRC+ of 118 and hit 8 home runs. On the road his OPS jumped to .870, he hit 13 homers and had a 134 wRC+. The numbers are even more drastic as you take his entire career into perspective, with a career home OPS of .676 and a road OPS of .852.

Remember, Christian Yelich went from a nice player with upside to the National League MVP by leaving Miami for Milwaukee. A similar transformation could occur with Realmuto.

And lest you be worried that acquiring the young catcher would negatively affect the Phils’ ability to land Harper or Machado, Realmuto is owed just $5.9 million this season. Would the Phillies pursue a contract extension with the 27-year-old, as he is under team control for just two more seasons?

While Alfaro has the ability to be one of the best catchers in the game, Realmuto already is one and would undoubtedly be an upgrade at the position. And without knowing the prospects involved, it’s impossible to say whether acquiring him would be worth it.