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The Biggest Conundrum in Baseball

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By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

You could buy a lot of things with $200 million. Mansions, sports cars, exotic pets, a private island…

Or, if you’re the Phillies, you could use it to make J.T. Realmuto the highest-paid catcher in MLB history.

Now, there’s little debate as to whether or not Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball. Defensively, there’s no question that he’s the best. In 2019, he threw out 35 attempted base stealers—by far the most of any other catcher that season. He has a pop time of 1.90 seconds, while the MLB average is 2.01 seconds. He’s saved 3.8 runs with his throwing abilities. However, Realmuto is also solid offensively in a time when catchers having that kind of duality isn’t so common. In 2019, he posted a .275 batting average, with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs, and a .266 average with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 2020. Realmuto has arguably been the Phillies’ best all-around player since arriving in 2018, and has proven himself to be an inimitable and irreplaceable player.

In the current Phillies organization, however, is he a luxury rather than a necessity? After all, only two catchers in MLB history have been paid more than $100 million—Buster Posey’s eight year/$159 million contract and Joe Mauer’s eight-year/$184 million deal. Realmuto will be 30 by the time next season starts, so whatever contract he is offered will be shorter than eight years. Not to mention that while he’s still a phenomenal player, he’s not square in his prime anymore; we can’t count on 4-5 more years of the way he’s been playing since 2018.

And yes, $200 million is a lot of money, but it’s not unheard of for players to set initial standards quite high when opening up contract negotiations. When our beloved Bryce Harper was on the open market, there was chatter about him going for an eye-watering $500 million before closing on the notorious 13-year/$330 million deal with the Phillies. It’s entirely possible that Realmuto will agree to a deal worth less than his initial asking price.

All that being said, if Realmuto and his camp won’t settle for less than $200 million, it’s simply not worth it. There are other areas of the Phillies organization that desperately need attention and improvement (i.e. pitching), and it would be much more sensible to invest that money into pitchers that will improve our abysmal presence on the mound. To see Realmuto leave Philly after just two seasons would be disappointing to say the least, but we have a respectable catcher in Andrew Knapp and a promising up-and-comer in Rafael Marchan.

Would they be able to completely fill the J.T.-shaped hole that would be left in Philly’s hearts? Of course not. But it’s not their fault—a catcher as special as the BCIB™ only comes along once in a blue moon. During any other season, it wouldn’t be a question as to whether or not he was worth the money.

But it’s 2020, nothing is happening like it’s supposed to, and resources like that need to be put towards areas that desperately require improvement—something Jacob Tyler does not.

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