Phillies: JT Realmuto isn’t worth $200 million dollars

It’s not looking good for a JT Realmuto return.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com wrote an interesting piece stating that the Phillies were not optimistic about their chances with the free agent superstar catcher. Extending Realmuto seemed like a surefire lock to return just seven months ago, but that is now seemingly unlikely to happen.

The trade for Realmuto, if that’s the case, will go down as one of the worst in team history. Sixto Sanchez looks the part of an ace, and to give him up for only two years of Realmuto would be among one of the worst sports moves in city history.

One of the most interesting parts of the article, though, was when Zolecki mentioned Realmuto receiving a qualifying offer from the Phillies.

“He will reject it. If he accepts it, he is no longer a free agent and is signed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. Realmuto is eyeing a record-shattering contract for a catcher, perhaps in the $200 million range.”

$200 million would absolutely crush the contract signed by Buster Posey in 2013. The Giants gave Posey a remarkable 8 year/$168 million extension. Joe Mauer still holds the record for biggest contract signed by a catcher, as the Twins gave him an 8 year/$184 million in 2011. Outside of Posey, though, no other current catcher in the Majors has a contract value that surpasses $73 million.

Paying catchers big money just doesn’t happen often.

Don’t get me wrong, Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball and deserves a contract that reflects the fact. However, I wanted to take a look and see if he’s truly that much more valuable than Posey was.

It’s difficult to compare the Posey contract, as Posey signed his at age 26 and Realmuto will be 30 come next season. When Posey signed his deal, he was coming off a World Series title, a MVP award, and a Silver Slugger award. He had established himself as one of the best catchers in the league and was arguably the one of the best players in baseball. The Giants wanted him to be a lifelong Giant and seized the opportunity to lock him up long term. The deal has worked out for both sides, as Posey is a lifetime .302 hitter and the Giants were able to get another World Series title in 2014.

The Mauer contract, on the other hand, is a better comparison for Realmuto. While Mauer never won a World Series with the Twins, he established himself as one of the best hitters in the entire league. In his MVP season of 2009, Mauer hit .365/.444/.587 with 28 HRs and 96 RBIs. Not only did he win an MVP, but he also won 3 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers before he signed his monster deal. Realmuto is one hell of a catcher, but I think that Mauer was a better, more established player at the time he signed his monster contract. Mauer, like Posey, was younger than Realmuto, signing the deal at age 28.

I don’t think that JT will have any problem finding a deal that beats Joe Mauer’s catcher record $23 million AAV on his next deal. I feel that Realmuto could find something between $25M-$30M a year on his next contract. That is well within the market limits for someone who is an above average offensive talent at a premium position.

However, being 30 at the start of next season, I find it hard to believe Realmuto finding a deal longer than six years on the open market. By the end of Mauer’s deal, he was relegated to first base due to concussion issues. Likewise with Posey, as Joey Bart seems to be San Francisco’s catcher of the future. Catchers tend to break down much faster than other position players. Just look at the beating they take on a night in, night out basis. Even if Realmuto maxes out the AAV at $30 million, a six year deal guarantees him only $180 million over the life of the deal.

I just don’t think he is worth that $200 million figure that Zolecki reported. WAR (wins above replacement) isn’t the most reliable stat, but it does paint a good picture here. Prior to signing his deal, Mauer had a 33.2 career WAR. Posey has a career WAR of 11.9 at the time he signed, of course after only 4 years in the league. However, through his age 29 season, Posey had a 30.3 WAR. Realmuto currently has a career WAR of 18.8. A really nice number, but not close to the likes of Mauer and Posey.

Realmuto is going to be a huge loss for the Phillies if (or when) he leaves. He has been a huge part of this lineup for the last two seasons, and has played amazing behind the dish. However, I don’t think investing $200 million into him would be the best thing for this franchise moving forward. If he is expecting that type of money, I don’t see the Phillies being in the hunt.

It is much more likely that the Phillies resign Didi Gregorius so they can allocate more of the $65 million of cap space on the other holes the roster has.

It will be interesting on what kind of deal Realmuto signs, whether it is with the Phillies or someone else.

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