Earlier today, the Phillies and star catcher J.T. Realmuto agreed to a contract that will pay Realmuto $115.5 million over 5 years. The Average Annual Value (AAV) of Realmuto’s contract ($23.1 million) is the highest ever for a catcher passing Joe Mauer’s previous AAV record of $23 million.
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, the Phillies acquired J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins in exchange for Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, Will Stewart, and future considerations. Had the Phillies lost Realmuto to an opposing franchise in Free Agency, they surely would have lost that trade because Sanchez appears to have one of the brightest futures of all pitchers in baseball. However, the Phillies were able to re-sign Realmuto so it’d be unfair to title a winner of this trade at the moment.
Since the start of the 2018 season, Realmuto has a .274/.336/.489 slash line, .348 wOBA, 118 wRC+ at the plate; 8 DRS, 23.2 CDA, 11.2 FRM behind the plate; all accumulating for 12.4 fWAR in 317 games (about 5.9 per 150 games). In this time period, Realmuto was recognized as an All Star in 2018 and 2019 (no All Star Game in 2020), won the 2019 Gold Glove Award for catchers, and won the 2018 and 2019 Silver Slugger Award for catchers.
In what appears to become a very competitive division, the Phillies definitely needed to bring back Realmuto (or bring in another star player) to even stay relevant in the NL East and they at least did that. Although the Phillies do have a solid roster, I’d expect them to finish no higher than third place in the division behind the Mets and Braves in some order.
Although there are certain aspects of this contract that I’m not a huge fan of, I like the re-signing of Realmuto for the most part. Given the Phillies have a relatively thin farm system, they needed to bring in another star to even have hope for the next few seasons. If the Phillies didn’t add any stars, they likely would have to go through at least a few seasons of mediocrity which is the worst possible thing for a sports team. What I like most is that the Phillies will not have to worry about Realmuto’s contract past his age 34 season. Using ZiPS’ projection from Fangraphs, it’s safe to assume that Realmuto has 2 or 3 more near “prime” seasons left in him until he starts regressing to a somewhat significant extent. Based on this assumption, the Phillies will almost certainly be overpaying Realmuto for at least the final two years of his contract if you don’t consider the overall contract to be an overpay. I for one do think the Phillies somewhat overpaid Realmuto but not to the extent that I think this is a bad signing. Overall, I’d give the Phillies somewhere in between a B+ and A- for the re-signing of J.T. Realmuto.