Overshadowed by the putrid display put on by the Eagles, a bit of Phillies news hit the wire last night.
As expected, the team extended the $18.9M qualifying offer to their superstar catcher, meaning they would be in line to receive draft compensation if Realmuto was to jump ship for another team. While it was really on basic clerical work on the side of the team, it was nice to see them officially extend it. It is almost a certainty that Realmuto will decline the offer, as he and his agent have made clear multiple times that he is looked for record money for a catcher on his next contract.
Realmuto has 10 days to decide whether to accept or decline it. If for some strange reason he does accept it, Realmuto will be officially signed for the 2021 season, making the average salary of the 125 top earners in today’s game. If he were to decline the offer, the Phillies are still allowed to negotiate with Realmuto, making this more of a procedural move for the Phillies.
The more surprising and, frankly, disappointing move was that the team declined to extend the same offer to SS Didi Gregorius. Gregorius, who signed a one year/$14 million deal with the team last offseason, had a nice rebound season with the Phillies, hitting .284 with 10 HRs and 40 RBIs while playing his typical strong defense up the middle. With the economic uncertainty faced by teams this offseason, Gregorius would have definitely given more thought to the QO than Realmuto. I believe that Gregorius would have actually accepted it had it been offered, which is part of the reason the Phillies decided not to offer it in the first place.
It has been no secret that the Phillies are trying to cut payroll this offseason. Managing partner John Middleton has made it clear that he would like to cut the team’s financial expenditures this offseason, meaning that the team won’t likely be spending all of the $65 million they have before reaching the luxury tax. The team lost a reported $186 million in revenues this season due to the pandemic, and it seems likely that the trend could continue in 2021, depending on the state of the world come Spring Training. Every single dollar spent by the team is under the microscope, as seen by the debacle occurring in the front office with Andy MacPhail.
With that being said, Gregorius accepting his qualifying offer cuts into the available money to fill the rest of the holes on the roster, and almost certainly would take them out of the Realmuto race before it even truly begins. While Phillies fans, myself included, would love to have both players back in the Pinstripes in 2021, it seems as if they will only have room to accommodate signing one of them. Realmuto is clearly the more important player to this franchise, and the Phillies couldn’t risk losing him because Didi accepted his qualifying offer.
Matt Winkelman of Phillies Minor Thoughts really summed up the whole decision when he said, “Extending a QO to Didi is what good teams do, teams desperate to pinch pennies do not.” Gregorius accepting the QO would have definitely put the Phillies into the luxury tax, but he also fills a hole on this team and has proven that he can produce. Not only does it fill a need, but Didi’s swing and approach fits perfectly in Citizens Bank Park. Having Jean Segura move back to play shortstop just doesn’t feel good, even if El Mambo had a decent season at the plate.
It will be interesting to see not only how the Phillies approach the offseason, but the rest of the MLB does. Free agents were free to sign with teams starting last night, but it will probably take a little bit of time for the market to get really active as teams have to spend extra time financially planning for next season.
Not a single team could put a claim in on Brad Hand, a top five reliever in all of baseball on a $10 million contract for next season. If you thought this was a Philadelphia problem, think again.
Baseball fans are in for a long and disappointing offseason.