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Matt Klentak sounds pessimistic when it comes to signing J.T. Realmuto

The Phils’ GM didn’t sound convinced he would be able to sign the team’s star catcher.

MLB: General Managers Meetings Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

J.T. Realmuto has not been in the Phillies lineup since September 12 as he’s dealt with a hip injury that has limited his mobility, both behind the plate and on the bases. The team hopes he’ll be able to play in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Nationals in some capacity, which would be welcome news for a lineup that managed just six hits and one run in Monday night’s 5-1 loss in the nation’s capitol.

If Realmuto suits up for the final six games of the regular season, fans should get a good, long look at him, because it might be their last.

Speaking with Phillies beat reporters and other media before Monday’s game, general manager Matt Klentak did not sound like a guy who was confident in his ability to lasso the player who will undoubtedly be the top free agent on the market this off-season. Klentak was asked if the performance of former prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was the prime prospect dealt away to the Marlins in exchange for J.T., has increased the pressure on Klentak to sign Realmuto this winter.

What Klentak said next was both depressing and infuriating.

First, Klentak seems to be indicating that the Phillies are only going to get two years out of Realmuto, a sentiment that is sure to depress the fanbase. J.T. is hitting .267/.357/.527 with a wRC+ of 135 and an fWAR of 1.7. When you combine his offense, defense and baserunning, there is no better catcher in baseball and there has been no one better ever to wear a Phillies uniform. There is no back-up plan if he leaves.

Second, virtually no one thought it was a good idea to trade Sanchez away to a division rival for just two years of Realmuto. The hope and assumption was the team would sign him to an extension before things reached this stage and only an extension of Realmuto would make the deal worth it.

There is absolutely no world, none, where two years of Realmuto is worth Sixto Sanchez, and that’s not revisionist history. Most Phils fans were saying that at the time of the trade. Nothing has changed. Trying to sell that heap of nonsense to the fanbase will go over about as well bringing Brandon Workman back as the closer next year.

Third, this sentiment is devoid of an understanding of the fanbase’s emotional investment in Realmuto. The fans desperately want him back, and if this is about trying to temper fans’ expectations and sell a new narrative, he should stop because it’s not going to work.

Yes, it’s going to be difficult to sign him. Both New York teams, as well as the Dodgers and Astros, are all licking their chops to get their hands on this guy. Certainly Klentak can’t come out and say, “We’re going to beat anything anyone else presents to him,” because that would hurt their bargaining position, but Klentak and owner John Middleton should be fully cognizant of the fact that Realmuto is going to command top dollar. This quote makes it sound as though Klentak is trying to convince fans that they’ve already recouped their value in the deal, and that’s just a bunch of malarkey.

Klentak does not speak like a GM who understands his fans at all. If he expects Phillies season ticket holders to accept that rationale, he’s sorely mistaken. Floating the notion that two years of Realmuto was worth the price of Sixto Sanchez is insulting to our intelligence.

We’re not stupid. Sixto was an untouchable prospect that, so far, has netted the Phils the best catcher in baseball. But it didn’t help the franchise grab a playoff spot in Realmuto’s first year and, because Klentak ignored the bullpen this past off-season, could very well result in a failure to make the postseason in Realmuto’s second season. If Sanchez turns into the ace starter he appears on his way to being, those two years of Realmuto in Philadelphia won’t even be close to equal value.

The reality of the situation is this: if Matt Klentak and John Middleton don’t get Realmuto to come back to Philadelphia, the calls for Klentak to lose his job are going to be overwhelming. Everyone in the organization has to know this, which is why it’s mystifying a deal wasn’t wrapped up long before the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into things.

Klentak’s statement regarding Realmuto will do nothing but rile up a fanbase that already had him on the hot seat. It was tone deaf and, most importantly, just flat out wrong.

Sign J.T.