While Trevor Bauer is the crown jewel of this year’s MLB free-agent market for pitchers, catcher J.T. Realmuto is undoubtedly the best position player available.
Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in baseball right now. He’s a productive offensive player who is also sound defensively. In other words, he’s a difference-maker on both sides of the ball, which isn’t something that can be said about most catchers, which is why Realmuto is likely to have a lot of suitors.
Of course, there’s already been a twist in Realmuto’s saga when the New York Mets signed James McCann rather than waiting for Realmuto. The Mets were long believed to be the favorites to land Realmuto, but with New York out of the picture, let’s take a look at the remaining favorites to sign Realmuto this winter.
Toronto Blue Jays: 20%
With the Mets out of the Realmuto sweepstakes, the Blue Jays may have — in a rather sneaky way — become the favorites to sign Realmuto.
One of the biggest differences between Toronto and the teams below them on our list is that the Blue Jays appear set on an aggressive strategy in free agency that includes spending a lot of money. There’s a good chance that Realmuto will receive the largest contract ever given to a catcher, so only big spenders should apply.
For what it’s worth, the Blue Jays aren’t desperate to add a catcher with youngsters like Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire on the roster. However, those guys could easily become trade chips if Toronto signs Realmuto.
The Blue Jays would love to add a veteran bat to the middle of their youthful lineup while also aiding some of their young pitchers in the years to come with a receiver like Realmuto behind the plate.
If they don’t add an impact starter to their rotation, Realmuto could be Toronto’s most likely free-agent target.
Los Angeles Angels: 15%
Technically, the pitching staff is a much bigger need for the Angels. But adding Realmuto would provide some assistance to the L.A. pitching staff. He also provides quality lineup depth behind Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. After all, it’s best not to have a catcher as the best hitter in a lineup, although Realmuto would be perfect as the third-most-important hitter. While Max Stassi had a productive 2020, the Halos probably aren’t sold on him as the long-term answer.
Like a lot of teams, look for the Angels to slow-play things with Realmuto, which is the biggest reason why the Mets jumped on McCann quickly. The Halos will likely prioritize pitching before getting serious with Realmuto. However, the Angels have money, which will be a key ingredient in the Realmuto sweepstakes.
Washington Nationals: 15%
The Nationals are serious contenders for Realmuto now that the Mets are out of the picture. It’s never completely clear what Washington’s plans are under Mike Rizzo or if the Nats will be willing to write a big enough check to sign Realmuto. But the Nationals will be looking to make a splash after a disappointing 2020 and clearly have the starting rotation to be a serious contender.
Behind the plate, Kurt Suzuki is a free agent while Yan Gomes is getting older and may not be a reliable every-day starter. That makes catcher a position where Washington could upgrade. The problem is that the outfield might be a bigger concern and the position where the Nats need to devote their financial resources. However, Realmuto would deliver a little lineup depth behind Juan Soto while the veteran pitching staff would undoubtedly love to have him behind the plate.
Philadelphia Phillies: 15%
The Phillies are borderline desperate to get Realmuto back in the City of Brotherly Love. They weren’t good enough to make the playoffs in 2020 with him, and so things would be rather dire for Philadelphia if he’s not back. Bryce Harper, in particular, would be disappointed not to have Realmuto back with him in 2021. With the Mets going another route, the fanbase in Philadelphia received a huge jolt of optimism that re-signing Realmuto is possible.
The caveat will be money and how new President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wants to spend money this offseason. The Phillies are likely going to cut payroll significantly, so there may not be enough in the budget for a high-priced free agent like Realmuto. They also have other needs that need to be addressed with their limited spending money.
On the other hand, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the Phillies definitely want him back.
New York Yankees: 15%
After the Yankees decided to tender Gary Sanchez a contract, it’s less likely that they’ll be serious players for Realmuto. However, the Bronx Bombers surely have the financial resources to go after the backstop, which should keep them in the running until the end. After all, Sanchez could easily be relegated to a backup role or even traded to make room for Realmuto.
The Yankees are likely to be more focused on upgrading their pitching staff. Much like the Angels and a couple of other teams, New York might focus on the starting pitching market before trying to engage in serious discussions with Realmuto.
The Yankees will surely sign Realmuto if they can, but he may not be their top priority.
Houston Astros: 5%
The word on the street is that the Astros aren’t going to be serious contenders for Realmuto. With George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all free agents, the Astros need to address their outfield before doing anything else. They also have to think about how they spend money if they want to re-sign Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve when the time comes.
That being said, Martin Maldonado isn’t the ideal No. 1 catcher for a contender. With Houston’s rotation getting a lot younger, the Astros may stay in touch with Realmuto just in case the price falls enough.
St. Louis Cardinals: 5%
The one thing we know for sure about the Cardinals is that they’ll sign a catcher this winter. It’s possible that Yadier Molina doesn’t return to St. Louis, which would keep a spot open for Realmuto.
There is little evidence to suggest that the Cardinals will be big spenders this winter. However, the need for a catcher is there and there is every reason to believe that St. Louis is interested in Realmuto.
The Field: 10%
As you may have been able to deduce on your own, the market for Realmuto is moving at a snail’s pace.
Don’t expect anything to happen in the immediate future, and the longer things drag on, the more likely a club will come out of nowhere to become a surprise contender for Realmuto’s services.
Financially, some of these clubs may seem like a long shot. But don’t completely count out teams like the Braves, Brewers, Reds, Rockies or Twins. None of the top contenders for Realmuto are a slam-dunk fit for him, so keep an eye on the field moving forward.
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