December 10, 2019
The 2019 Phillies were a mixed bag, but J.T. Realmuto's first year in Philadelphia was all roses, and the 28-year-old catcher earned some serious recognition from Major League Baseball on Tuesday, landing on the league's first-ever All-MLB First Team.
Realmuto, widely considered the best catcher in MLB, was a rock behind home plate, and added the best offensive season of his career. He finished the year with an eye-catching 47% caught stealing rate on 92 attempts, an entire 6% better than any player with at least 25 attempted steals against. Offensively, he slashed .275/.328/.493 and set career-bests with 25 home runs and 83 RBI.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Realmuto marked the team's only appearance on the All-MLB First and Second teams, while three NL East rivals — the Nationals, the Braves, and even the Mets — managed to put multiple players on the respective teams.
While the Phillies chase marquee free agents with even more stupid money, it's worth remembering that Realmuto is going to cost a pretty penny as well.
On top of his obvious contributions and his numerous awards (he also earned Silver Slugger and Gold Glove nods this year), failing to keep Realmuto long-term would leave a gaping hole in the lineup without much in the way of a backup plan. The drop-off from Realmuto to Andrew Knapp is more than significant, and not one of the top 10 prospects in the Phillies' farm system is a catcher.
NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury reported last month that an extension for Realmuto "might not come before the opening of spring training," despite the team making it clear they've prioritized extending their star catcher. A hypothetical extension could reach the neighborhood of $20 million per year, according to Salisbury.
Realmuto, for what it's worth, said over the summer that he was enjoying his first year in Philly and was open to the idea of staying here for the "rest of his career". When the best catcher in baseball says he wants to stay, it's usually a good sign. John Middleton should probably do what he can to keep Realmuto in town for a long time.