January 13, 2021
It was hard not to worry upon seeing the news that spring training for the Phillies will begin with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 17.
It's been months since the Phillies and their MLB-worst bullpen collapsed, saw top hitters J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius enter free agency, and later demoted Matt Klentak and hired Dave Dombrowski as President of Baseball Operations. Nothing good has really happened surrounding the Phillies in a pretty long time.
And while Phillies fans have seen their cross sports complex neighbors the Eagles implode, they've also had to deal with news that pretty much every other NL East team has gotten better this offseason. The Mets and Nationals have each made substantial improvements while the Phillies — who have sat around, patiently contemplating what to do — are now listed by TheLines.com's consensus odds to have the worst odds of winning the division in 2021 (at +850).
There is no clear news of an offer out to J.T. Realmuto, nor have there been any concrete reports of them interested in trading for or signing any player of note. But with just over a month until the team will start playing, there are signs of life.
A report from Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia confirms that Dombrowki met in person with Realmuto back in December. And while Dombrowski would not comment on whether a contract offer was made — the meeting was simply about "getting to know each other" — the report is certainly a reason for optimism.
He would not say if an offer had been extended to Realmuto in other settings.
"We have talked to him and his representative," Dombrowski said. "We're interested in signing him."
Dombrowski was asked if he had any optimism of striking a deal.
"That's a tough one to answer," he said. "We're hopeful. We'd love to have him back in Philadelphia."
Pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training in five weeks.
"We'd love to get something like this done sooner rather than later," Dombrowski said. "But there's no immediate pressure at this point." [NBC Sports Philadelphia]
Dombrowki's words aren't the most encouraging in the world, but you can understand him not wanting to give away his hand.
As Realmuto remains the free agent prize of the winter, teams are falling out of contention for his services left and right. The Mets and Nationals are out, and there hasn't been much noise on the always free-spending Dodgers. His top AL suitor, the Astros, have reportedly dropped out too, Ken Rosenthal says:
Free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto is a fit for the Astros, at least from a baseball perspective. But the quality of the draft picks the team would sacrifice for signing Realmuto, or any other free agent attached to a qualifying offer, likely will be severe enough to limit the club’s interest, if not eliminate it entirely. [The Athletic]Rosenthal goes on to explain that the penalties from Houston's cheating scandal combined with their attempts to get George Springer back force their hand. As does the surrendered first round pick that the Phillies stand to be awarded, as they offered Realmuto a qualifying offer (which he declined).
If the Phillies are standing their ground on a low-ball offer, hoping to be the last option standing, it might actually be a tactic that works.
Which begs the question, why be so cheap? An offer in the range Realmuto is hoping for would likely end all this drama instantly. It's also worth mentioning that he deserves to be paid.
Aside from the team's loss of income in 2020 due to the pandemic and their intention to stay below the luxury tax threshold, could the Phillies be looking to have their cake and eat it, too? Another fan-friendly report surfaced this week, this one also from Salisbury, who says that the Phillies remain "engaged" with Gregorius. This is the first modicum of news on the shortstop front since the season ended.
Gregorius had a stellar offensive campaign in his one truncated season in Philly, and proved it successfully after signing a one-year deal prior to the 2020 season. The Phillies initial hesitancy to re-sign him is most likely their high hope in first round pick Bryson Stott, who plays shortstop and whom they would not want to block when he is ready to make the big league jump. If Gregorius gets tired of playing the waiting game, the Phillies would most assuredly welcome the chance to give him another one-year pact.
Slowly, but surely the 2021 Phillies will take shape. Once a move gets made the full picture will come into focus. Let's hope it's sooner than later.
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