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July 10, 2020

Report: Phillies likely to let star catcher J.T. Realmuto test free agency

It was sort of implied Thursday when Phillies All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto chatted with media members and did not want to comment on the state of his contract negotiations, but according to's beat writer Todd Zolecki there appears to be no contract extension coming this season.

A source said Thursday that the Phillies and Realmuto’s agent have talked recently, but nothing is close. In fact, the best bet at this point is that Realmuto hits the open market and the Phillies try to sign him then. []

Realmuto did confirm that he and his team "were in the really preliminary stages early on in Spring Training before the pandemic," but added, "we haven’t really gone anywhere since then." He then went on to talk about how he'd like to catch 50-55 games, and his bromance with Bryce Harper

The 29-year-old had nothing but love for the Phillies organization, but it looks like circumstances have thwarted the no-brainer, quick agreement many Phils fans (and Harper) had been hoping for.

After horrible financial strife between the league and the players, there is still a great deal of animosity on both sides with no fans expected to be in stands this season and just 60 games to be played. This means a lot less revenue for MLB to account for, and could mean less for the 2020 free agent class. 

Realmuto said he wasn't particularly concerned for himself but was worried for the free agent class as a whole.

“The top guys usually find a way to get their dollars," he said. "Teams are going to want them, you know. Maybe if it’s not 20 teams that are in on you, now there’ll be five to 10. I just think that a lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and actually go for it instead of backing off.”

Realmuto, at least before the season was shut down in March, was expected to break Joe Maurer's annual record for a catcher of $23 million a year. He still might — but it's really anyone's guess how things will play out this coming winter.

2020 Top MLB Free Agents

Mookie Betts, 28
J.T. Realmuto, 29
Marcus Semien, 29
Trevor Bauer, 29
George Springer, 30
Marcus Stroman, 28
Marcell Ozuna, 29
D.J. LeMahieu, 32
Mike Minor, 31
Jake Odorizzi, 30

It's a deep class that lacks some of the star power of recent offseason's, like 2018's Bryce Harper and Manny Machado or last season's Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon sweepstakes, but there are a lot of starting quality ballplayers whose contracts are set to expire at season's end.

It will also be interesting to see how the trade market develops, with the deadline already just over a month and a half away on August 31. Will teams be more or less likely to trade a star player on an expiring deal, not knowing in any way shape or form how the market will look a few months from now in November?

Realmuto plays a premium position and his value is arguably the highest of anyone available next season, aside for perhaps Betts, who was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers this past offseason.

Of course, as we've seen time and time again with agents pulling strings, these could all be negotiating tactics. Maybe they are close to a deal and trying to get reporters off the scent. 

All we know for sure is the Phillies and Matt Klentak would be in hot water if they let Realmuto slip through their fingers.

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