J.T. Realmuto is Officially a Free Agent

Photo credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing surprising here. There was a 99.9999999% chance of this happening:

The Phils extended a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer, which we knew would be rejected, and Realmuto becomes a free agent.

So what now?

Well, he can sign with anybody he wants. He’ll test the market and see what kind of long term interest is out there, and if nothing suits him, the Phillies can of course make a second effort to get a deal done. If Realmuto does go elsewhere, the Phils will get draft pick compensation.

Wednesday, we shared a roundtable discussion from MLB.com writers, who believed J.T. might end up with the Mets, a club bolstered by the takeover of billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. The Yankees could be a player as well, but SNY’s Andy Martino doesn’t think Realmuto will be the primary focus for either team:

Their first priority is attempting to re-sign DJ LeMahieu. If that happens, it will likely be their most significant expenditure. If LeMahieu leaves for another team, the Yanks would move Gleyber Torres back to second base and look for a shortstop like Andrelton Simmons or Brandon Crawford. A trade for Francisco Lindor, of course, also hovers as a moonshot possibility.

With the Yankees operating on a tighter than usual budget, this all leads to a more modest solution at catcher. The team still believes in Gary Sanchez’s upside, though Sanchez is hardly untouchable in trade talks anymore. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a tandem of Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka next season, with the latter receiving more playing time from the start, as he did this October.

As for the Mets, they appear more focused on outfielder George Springer. Fans expecting new owner Steve Cohen to sign multiple big ticket free agents this winter will likely be disappointed; as Cohen himself said at his introductory news conference, he is not planning to spend “like a drunken sailor” on free agents.

Makes sense. Realmuto turns 30 in March. George Springer is 31 and Trevor Bauer 29, for example, so if you wanted to make a big splash, wouldn’t a center fielder or pitcher be the better primary investment? The Mets have Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and David Peterson, with Noah Syndergaard returning at some point, but they could probably use another starting pitcher. They need a catcher, but Realmuto might be a secondary focus for them.

I think we’re all under the impression that the Phillies are cheaping out here, but every team took a revenue hit this season. It’s not like the Phils were the only franchise affected by a lack of fans in the seats. It just looks wonky in this city because they were coming off a year in which they gave Bryce Harper $330 million and talked a big game about winning again. It looks even funkier when you think about Harper’s very public gesturing for Realmuto to get a long term deal and the outward support he’s shown for his teammate over the last two seasons.

Best case scenario here is that Realmuto doesn’t find the contract he wants because of a pandemic-affected market, which could reduce spending league wide. In that case, maybe he comes back to the table and works something out with the Phillies, who would get a second bite at correcting the mistake they made by not getting a long term deal done months ago, or even a year ago.

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