I have to say, I absolutely did not see this trade getting to the finish line, but the Phillies have reportedly struck a deal with the Miami Marlins for catcher J.T. Realmuto:
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 7, 2019
The Phils also kicked in an international bonus slot.
Tucked away in the depths of baseball anonymity with the Marlins since his Major League debut in 2014, the 27-year-old Realmuto has emerged in recent seasons as one of baseball’s best catchers. He led all catchers in fWAR a season ago, slashing .277/.340/.484 over 125 games. Throw in 30 doubles, 21 homers, and 74 RBIs from a guy who primarily worked behind the dish on a talent-deprived team in a pitcher-friendly park, and it’s not hard to imagine those numbers will only increase with the Phillies. And it’s not just about the offense. He also has an excellent arm. According to MLB StatCast, his 1.90 second pop time was the best of any catcher that attempted at least five throws to second base last season. The man can run, too:
— MLB (@MLB) August 24, 2017
That’s the good news. Now the bad.
The package of prospects including top prospect Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, and minor league pitcher Will Stewart is a steep price to pay for Realmuto’s two remaining years of control, and one that, frankly, feels like a lot. Here’s what I wrote yesterday when word of a possible deal first broke:
It’s not that Sanchez should be untouchable, but I don’t view the upgrade from Alfaro to Realmuto worth the value of the Phillies’ top overall prospect. Look at it this way. At Realmuto’s peak value, he’s probably a three-win upgrade from Alfaro. Is that move, with a roster that’s not yet a viable contender sans Harper/Machado, worth punting on a 20-year-old pitcher that has elite front-end starter potential, or selling short on what such potential could fetch in return? That’s a no for me.
Maybe it works out, but my initial reaction is that this feels like a little bit of a reach. This is not to say that Sanchez is on the brink of becoming the next Pedro Martinez. There are both injury concerns to consider and the lack of certainty regarding what a 20-year-old prospect will ultimately become:
Evaluator: “i would not feel good at all about acquiring Sixto Sanchez” because of injury concerns
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) February 7, 2019
Plus, prospects bust. Dom Brown. Kyle Drabek. We’ve been down this road before. In fact, I will readily concede that Philadelphia sports fans, particularly The Process crowd :::ducks:::, have generally come to overvalue assets and unknown entities. Still, I’m not sure the value of these particular prospects is best utilized by whatever the upgrade is by going from Alfaro to Realmuto. Seemingly, unless the injury concerns from the Phillies are significant enough that the team has reason to believe Sanchez won’t pan out, one would think there would be a better deal, particularly in a climate where teams value youth/control.
To me, the overall evaluation of this trade is not independent of how the Harper and Machado sagas play out. Was the addition of Realmuto THE MOVE, one that serves as spin, compensating for what would surely be a sense of disappointment should they miss out on one of these guys, or the precursor to a blockbuster signing of a superstar in the coming days that will make the Phillies the team to fucking beat once again? If that’s the case, then screw it, I’m in. Let’s go. But until we have that answer, it’s tough to fully gauge the deal. What we do know right now is that the Phillies just got better in the short-term, we just don’t know at what cost.