Over the past decade, the Philadelphia Phillies have gone through a few transitions at the backstop position. Historically, the Phils have drafted or acquired great catchers to field well and hit for them. This enigmatic coupling does not often happen with catchers at any professional level.
Over the past four decades, the Phillies have had incredible hitting catchers with great defensive play in Bob Boone, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal, and Carlos Ruiz. These backstops helped lead the Phils to the World Series or were part of great teams that just missed out. I grew up watching Lieberthal and Ruiz for the majority of my life. So, in my eyes, having a great catcher is super essential for the success of a ball club.
The Phillies even acquired the "Best Catcher in Baseball" in 2019, which the Phanbase now seems to have mixed reviews. The Phils had to give up their top prospect Sixto Sanchez, their starting catcher, Jorge Alfaro, and a pitching prospect, Will Stewart, for Realmuto. At the time, the trade for J.T. Realmuto fulfilled the needs of a strong bat and excellent fielding, which Jorge Alfaro could not provide consistently for the Phils.
JT Realmuto has been named to the Official All-MLB Team!— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) December 10, 2019
Congrats, to the consensus BCIB!
From 2015 to 2018, Realmuto went unnoticed primarily because he played for the Miami Marlins. However, Realmuto was part of what could have been a monster Marlins team, including Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, Dee Strange-Gordon, Miguel Rojas, and Jose Fernandez. The death of Jose Fernandez and the transition of ownership yielded the Marlins firesale that inevitably brought the BCIB to the Phillies.
If you are a visual learner, I highly recommend this link about this story.
Realmuto in Philly
J.T. Realmuto has been praised and adored by Phans all over Philadelphia for his stellar defense, ability to snipe base stealers, and great hitting. In his first season with the Phillies, the Oklahoma native hit .275 BA, .328 OBP, .493 SLG, .821 OPS, 25 HR, and 83 RBIs. Realmuto won a Gold Glove, made his second All-Star Game, Silver Slugger, and 14th in MVP voting.
Stat Lines for the last two seasons:
(Covid shortened Season) In 2020: .266 BA, .349 OBP, .491 SLG, .840 OPS, 11 HR, and 32 RBIs.
Before the 2021 season, J.T. Realmuto signed a 5YR/$115.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. This deal made him the highest-paid (in AAV) catcher in MLB History, surpassing Joe Mauer's 8YR/$184 million contract in 2010.
The Phillies have 2 All-Stars. Zack Wheeler was a no-brainer.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 4, 2021
J.T. Realmuto? "I was very excited, especially off of the heels of one of the worst slumps of my career."@CSeidmanNBCS has more. https://t.co/eaXLzNxY08
The hope is that JT can keep up his ability as a backstop for the entire contract as Mauer did with the Minnesota Twins. Only time will tell for the All-Star catcher.
In 2021: .263 BA, .343 OBP, .439 SLG, .782 OPS, 17 HR, 73 RBIs. *All-Star
During the 2021 season, JT dealt with an injury specifically to his thumb, but it did not stop him from playing or rehabbing it as best he could. It definitely affected him because his numbers took a slight dip from the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
In the second season of his extension, J.T. Realmuto has been struggling at the plate and in the field. The hardworking backstop is batting .240 BA, .321 OBP, .350 SLG, .671 OPS, 3 HR, 24 RBIs. It is not a terrible stat line, but it is unusual for a player who hits much better than this.
Realmuto has not been great with runners on base. He has grounded out into double plays at a higher percentage and not knocking in runs more so than in past seasons. Additionally, JT has made seven errors this season alone, and it is only June. He has never committed double-digit amounts of fielding errors in his career. The fact that it is June and he is at seven is worrisome.
The Phillies starting catcher's mishaps at the plate and in the field are due to a possible slump, injury, or even age. Hopefully, this is just a slump, and Realmuto can break out of this funk.
Maybe he needs glasses/goggles like Charlie Sheen's Rick' Wild Thing" Vaughn required in the Major League film series.
Trade Options Going Forward
If J.T. Realmuto's slump is not a slump and age getting to him or ability (which I doubt), then the Phillies would need to move him or someone else. Often, aging catchers transition to DH or First Baseman quite seamlessly, so dealing with his contract would not be bad if there is value in his play.
If Bryce Harper keeps getting injured or needs to be out of the lineup, the Phillies need to consider alternatives. Marchan and Stubbs will take over catching duties. JT moves to 1B/DH with Rhys Hoskins for the rest of the season.
Here are some Trade Scenarios:
Option 1: Trade Rhys Hoskins, Damon Jones, and Dominic Pipkin for CP David Bednar (PIT).
The Pirates would do this because they love hoarding talent and letting them waste in Steel City. Bad ownership will always kill an organization. The Pirates do not have a long-term answer at First, so this would be enticing. Plus, they add two pitching prospects to their farm system. Both Pirates GM Ben Cherington and Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski worked for the Boston Red Sox, so there is a connection there.
J.T. Realmuto would transition full-time to First Base. Then, Garrett Stubbs and a major league promotion of Rafael Marchan would take over the backstop position. This deal would elevate Logan O'Hoppe to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to get everyday reps. O'Hoppe would be ready to start for the Phillies by the 2023 season.
*To be completely honest, the Phillies will not trade Hoskins. They will likely use all his team control and not resign him after that. Bryce Harper has made the Phillies his team. Due to his friendship with Hoskins and Realmuto, entertaining a trade of Hoskins or Option 2 is unlikely.
Option 2: Trade J.T. Realmuto to a contender if the Phillies are out of the race by the trade deadline.
Despite JT slumping slightly, he has value as a player and would yield a decent return. If the Phillies made a deal with the Houston Astros for a reliever(s) and a prospect(s), this might entice James Click. The Phils should look at Brandon Bielak and Seth Martinez if this trade happens.
In this situation, Garrett Stubbs and Rafael Marchan would take over catching duties for the Phillies.
*Trading Realmuto is a bit premature, but for the sake of mock trades and scenarios, I created this option. Realistically, trading Realmuto will not happen unless a significant downturn in ability does occur in a couple of years.
Option 3: Trade Didi Gregorius, Zach Eflin, and Donny Sands to the Cincinnati Reds for SP Luis Castillo.
The Reds would be enticed by this trade, especially if the Phils eat part of Didi's salary. Didi is hitting and fielding well, and the Reds were rumored to be interested in him before the Phillies resigned him.
In addition, Eflin to replace Castillo makes sense. Then, receiving Donny Sands, who is hitting over .300 in Triple-A, and promoting him to MLB would be better than using Aramis Garcia and Chris Okey as your backstop.
Option 4: Trade Zach Eflin, Odubel Herrera, Damon Jones, and Dominic Pipkin to the Oakland Athletics for SP Frankie Montas and RP Domingo Acevedo.
This trade would cover the needs of both teams. The A's would get MLB talent and prospects in exchange for their top starter and a reliever, which the Phillies also need. It will be incredible if Dave Dombrowski pulls off this trade by the deadline with Billy Beane.
This trade would only happen if Eflin gets healthy and puts together some quality starts before the deadline.
*Possible Trade Targets for the Phillies: David Bednar (PIT), Erik Swanson (SEA), Marco Gonzales (SEA), Frankie Montas (OAK), Domingo Acevedo (OAK), Luis Castillo (CIN), Gabe Speier (KCR), Scott Barlow (KCR), Josh Staumont (KCR), Brandon Bielak (HOU), Seth Martinez (HOU), Rowan Wick (CHC), Scott Effross (CHC), Brandon Hughes (CHC).
In the End
Ultimately, the Phillies, most likely, will keep Realmuto and Hoskins by the trade deadline. David Dombrowski is known for making bold moves by the trade deadline, but who knows what he has in mind.
Hopefully, he does not trade the bare-bones farm for half-season rentals that do not push this club into a playoff spot. Sacrificing Painter, Abel, O'Hoppe, or Rojas would be a mistake for the team's longevity.
A little bit of Harry Kalas's High Hopes is necessary for the team's slumping players: J.T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, Bryson Stott, and Zach Eflin.
Please Discuss the Phillies' catching situation and possible trade scenarios in the comments section!
Let's Go, Phils!