J.T. Realmuto is one of the top free agents this offseason. The New York Mets must ignite a bidding war to steal him from the Philadelphia Phillies.
The New York Mets, like the other 29 teams, know that the free agent prize heading into the offseason is Philadelphia Phillies star catcher J.T. Realmuto. In the truncated 2020 season, Realmuto performed both offensively and defensively to justify a large contract. He ended the 2020 season with a .266/.349/.491 slash line with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 47 games. He posted a career-best wRC+ (125) along with the highest walk rate (8.2%) of his career because of his improved plate discipline.
In his Gold Glove 2019 season, Realmuto swung at 32% of pitches out of the strike zone. In 2020, Realmuto only swung at 23% of pitches outside the strike zone. While he played nearly 100 less games in 2020, the fact that Realmuto is getting better at laying off pitches out of the strike zone is an encouraging trend for his future walk rate.
From a defensive standpoint, Realmuto shined as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He threw out baserunners at a 25% clip, had one the fastest pop times among major league catchers, and showcased one of the fastest throwing arms of any catcher in the league. It is no surprise, therefore, that Realmuto’s contract demands are going to be extortionate. The New York Post reported that Realmuto is seeking a contract at least $23 million per season.
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Although Realmuto desires to return to Philadelphia, the Mets should start a bidding war with the Phillies. Going after Realmuto, even for that price tag, makes sense from a financial and lineup perspective.
The Mets are entering the offseason with a catcher situation that is in flux. ESPN reported that the team declined Wilson Ramos’s team option for $10 million, making him a free agent.
Considering Ramos posted his lowest batting average since 2015 (.239), it appears unlikely that the Mets would bring him back, especially for the price tag that he would seek. Robinson Chirinos was a nonfactor for the Mets over the last month of the season, and Rene Rivera was similarly ineffective.
That leaves New York with one catcher, Tomas Nido, and while he is young and showed signs of life offensively before COVID-19 cut his season short, he has not proven that he could be a team’s primary catcher.
That is where Realmuto can help the Mets.
Although the Mets tend to be more frugal with their checkbook, they are entering the offseason with a new wealthy owner in Steve Cohen and significant space in their payroll. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Mets will only have $76 million committed to their players heading into 2021. Even if arbitration pushes that figure higher, the Mets will clearly have the money to take on a star-level contract.
There is also another incentive to pursuing Realmuto. Acquiring him means that the Mets win double—they get the premier catcher in the game and also steal him from the Phillies. New owner Steve Cohen will be the wealthiest owner by far in the league once the change in ownership is finalized. Price should not be a factor for a team that has not won a championship since 1986.
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Considering Realmuto’s overall value, the Mets’ current payroll, and their catching situation, the Mets should ignite a bidding war with the Phillies to sign Realmuto. Even if they fail to land him and he returns to the Phillies, they can at least drive up his price tag and force the Phillies to spend more than they are comfortable with in order to retain him.