On Monday, Phillies fans were surprised to hear Philadelphia had jumped back into the J.T. Realmuto trade talks. While the Phils had been involved in conversations at the start of the off-season regarding the Marlins’ great young catcher, the price was deemed to be too rich for the Phillies’ blood, and it was assumed the Phils were out.
However, rumors that the price may have gone down got everyone around here pretty riled up.
Apparently, the price hasn’t gone down all that much, if at all.
Whether the Marlins trade J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies or not may come down to if pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez is part of the deal.
A source told MLB.com on Wednesday that Sanchez is viewed as a “must” to be included in a trade package for Realmuto.
The Marlins are pushing to complete a trade before their pitchers and catchers begin workouts on Feb. 13 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. But the team also is willing to wait if it is not pleased with the overall package.
That report was backed up by Phillies beat writer Scott Lauber.
Marlins are focused on trading J.T. Realmuto before pitchers/catchers report next week, according to a league source, and believe #Phillies have enough to get him as long as Alfaro and, as @JoeFrisaro reported, Sixto Sanchez are part of the deal.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) February 6, 2019
Could the Phillies be wavering? Might they include their No. 1 prospect for Realmuto, who was the best catcher in baseball last year?
If they are considering it, they should stop.
Realmuto is no doubt a phenomenal catcher and, were he to leave Miami, could see a big boost in his numbers, much like NL MVP Christian Yelich did after being traded to Milwaukee last year. Miami is one of the worst parks in the league for hitters and, last season, Realmuto had an OPS of .773 at home with 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. He’s also under team control for two more seasons, with a salary this year of just $5.9 million.
There are also many fans who are just down on Sixto Sanchez, mainly because he missed most of last year with an elbow injury that shut him down in early June after just eight starts. But word is he’s fully recovered and has lost none of his stuff, as the Phillies were being overly cautious with the 20-year-old. He enters the 2019 season as the unquestioned No. 1 prospect on the Phils and he is ranked as the No. 13 prospect overall by Baseball America, No. 23 by Baseball Prospectus and No. 27 by MLB Pipeline.
His size also gets knocked a lot. He is short, but he is very much not small. The reports out of Florida is that he might actually be closer to his 6'0" listing, which really doesn't make him too much of a size outlier— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) February 6, 2019
He is the Phillies’ lone blue-chip prospect. Is Realmuto enough of an upgrade over Jorge Alfaro to warrant including the one big card from the farm system the Phils have to play?
Alfaro certainly had his issues with blocking balls in the dirt and passed balls last season, and a strikeout rate of 36.6% is a huge number. But he also hit .262/.324/.407 in 108 games with a 2.1 fWAR that ranked 3rd on the team, and was 23rd among all MLB players in year average exit velocity off the bat at 91.6 mph.
He is entering his age 26 season and, while Realmuto can be a free agent after the 2020 season, Alfaro is under team control through 2023. Alfaro has untapped potential that could turn him into a top-10 or even top-5 catcher at some point in the next few years. It’s true, there’s every chance he won’t, but even right now, he’s a better-than-average catcher.
So while Realmuto would certainly be the better player in 2019 and probably 2020, is it worth giving up Sanchez to land him, given the potential of Alfaro?
And if you use Sixto now, that means you cannot trade him for any top flight talent that may become available this summer or next off-season. Imagine if Aaron Nola gets hurt in the middle of a pennant race. Wouldn’t it be nice to at least give yourself the option to use Sanchez as a potential trade chip to land a starter for the top of the rotation? Or what if the Angels actually decide to make Mike Trout available at some point in the next year or so. Without Sixto, the Phillies would have no chance of acquiring him.
There’s also the very real possibility that Sanchez develops into exactly what many prospect watchers think he will be... a top of the rotation, ace pitcher as soon as 2020. Is it worth potentially losing that kind of pitcher for an upgrade from Alfaro to Realmuto?
Matt Klentak and the organization have more information about Sanchez’ health and future prospects that we do, so they should know the costs and benefits of including him in a deal here. But from the outside looking in, making Sixto Sanchez a part of this trade should be a deal-breaker for the Phillies.
On Episode 255 of “Hittin’ Season,” hosts John Stolnis and Paul Boye discuss this issue as well as Bryce Harper’s meeting with the Giants, John Middleton’s time to step up and new rules changes that could soon be coming to baseball, including the DH to the National League.