By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
“I wouldn’t be opposed at all to staying here for the rest of my career, you know? Right now I’m going to focus on this playoff push, but once the offseason comes, I look forward to having those discussions.”
This was J.T. Realmuto’s response to being asked about the possibility of signing a new contract with the Phillies in September 2019, and it’s safe to say that everything that could’ve happened to change his mind happened. The 2019 playoff push failed. The 2020 season playoff push failed (despite there being an expanded playoff format). The contract discussions have reportedly been stagnant and frustrating. To make matters even worse, Thursday brought Realmuto’s official rejection of the Phillies’ $18.6 million qualifying offer.
The offer was nowhere near the $200 million value Realmuto’s camp set when contract negotiations first opened, and while that number seems exorbitant, it proves that Realmuto knows his worth. He could easily get more than an $18.6 million annual salary, whether it be with the Phillies or elsewhere.
While this rejection is obviously not pleasant news, all hope is not lost on Realmuto staying in Philadelphia. If another team wants to sign him, they will most likely have to part ways with some top draft picks to do so. Realmuto is one of four players to have turned a qualifying offer this offseason (the others being Trevor Bauer, D.J. LeMahieu, and George Springer) who now carry high draft compensation. A high asking price and the risk of losing ideal draft picks could be enough to dispel other teams from making serious inquiries for him. This also turns into a win-win for the Phillies—either they’re able to keep Realmuto, or they ascertain the high draft picks that have kept them from signing certain available free agents, bolstering the prospect options that have been lacking due the club’s habit of trading draft picks for big-name players. (Looking at you, Zack Wheeler.)
With all that being said, yes, the Phillies need to up their negotiation game—Realmuto cannot be another player that the Phillies regret letting go. However, negotiations are ongoing, and he has explicitly expressed his satisfaction with the environment in Philadelphia.
“It’s been a first-class organization all around, the way they treat my family. The fans are tough in Philly, but they’re there. They’re passionate. They care about the game, which is the first time I’ve really experienced a fan base like that. Just this group of guys. It’s a great clubhouse. This team just jells. It’s a place I enjoy.” These are promising words from Realmuto in 2019. While 2020 was disappointing, it doesn’t automatically spell disaster for his current contract talks. The city has made it abundantly clear that they want to keep the BCIB in red pinstripes for as long as possible—Bryce Harper has consistently lobbied for the Phillies to resign Realmuto, fans have spammed the team’s social media pages with “Sign Realmuto” comments...there’s no question that he is wanted, even needed, here.
So we don’t have ample reason to fret right now. It’s entirely possible that a moderately higher salary offer, a guaranteed bromance with Harper, a promise to sign new players, and that good old Philly passion for sports is enough to keep Realmuto behind the plate at Citizens Bank Park.