J.T. Realmuto trade grades: Phillies add another offensive asset; Marlins continue to rebuild
First the Marlins give up their home run sculpture and now J.T. Realmuto. It’s a good thing Realmuto is already familiar with the NL East.
The catcher was dealt from the Marlins to the Phillies — who you can make a case for as baseball’s most aggressive team this offseason — in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro and prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart as well as an international bonus slot.
Philadelphia has already acquired Jean Segura via trade and David Robertson and Andrew McCutchen in free agency, but the addition of Realmuto — who had been on the trading block all winter — might be its biggest one yet.
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This isn’t expected to impede the Phillies’ rabid pursuit of crown jewels Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. In fact, it’s expected to do the opposite .
Let’s take a look at one of the offseason’s biggest swaps from both sides.
It’s always a smart idea to get a player who is the cream of the crop of his position group, so it’s almost impossible to fault the Phillies for their pursuit.
Alfaro was serviceable (.262/324/.407) in 2018, but Realmuto, 27, was better in nearly every category, making this a great upgrade for a team that sees its opportunity to claim a very winnable division. Realmuto’s 12.4 fWAR since 2016 is the best among catchers and he was third in home runs (21) among the positional group in 2018. He also won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season, so the Phillies will have two years of control and ample time to work out a potential extension.
Philadelphia grabbed Realmuto away from the Braves, who were also involved in negotiations, blocking out one division rival, a move that should treat it well in the long run. While the Phillies are used to seeing Realmuto 18 times a year, the Marlins were never in contention, while the Braves are likely a threat in the NL East.
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Realmuto will almost certainly slot into the middle of the Phillies order — depending on if they add any more big pieces — and can provide some protection for slugger Rhys Hoskins.
He is also an experienced backstop that will have time to gel with a talented Phillies rotation that is expected to be led by Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Nick Pivetta.
It’s reasonable to wonder whether the possibility of a playoff race could impact Realmuto’s stats for the better. He was never in one in Miami, but hitters have been known to escalate their performance when playing meaningful games in August and September.
Sure, Philadelphia gave up a hefty package. Sure, they could have been content with holding onto Alfaro. But everything about their situation called for aggressiveness, and they responded accordingly.
The same Miami team that traded away its entire starting outfield last offseason just dealt its best hitter. If you are surprised, you are probably unfamiliar with the Marlins. This is a prime example of the Marlins being the Marlins.
Not that the Marlins made a mistake by trading Realmuto. They are maybe the least likely team to contend in the National League as it stands right now, so why not capitalize on their mediocrity and acquire some young players who can make them better down the road?
Sixto Sanchez is the headliner, and for good reason. Sanchez posted a 2.51 ERA while battling injuries in High-A ball last season as a 19-year-old, and has been solid at every level of his minor league career despite consistently being one of the youngest players in the league. MLB Pipeline ranks Sanchez as the Phillies’ top prospect and the No. 27 prospect in all of baseball.
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The addition of Jorge Alfaro still gives Miami a useful starting catcher. His 2.1 WAR was ninth among MLB catchers last season and he won’t turn 26 until June.
Like Sanchez, Will Stewart’s ETA appears to be a couple of years away, although his minor league stats in 2018 are sign of optimism. He had a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws and walked just 21 hitters in 113 2/3 innings.
We won’t be able to fully grade the Marlins haul for at least a few years, but although ripe with potential, this group is a step down from their asking price at the start of the offseason.
This likely won’t be the last we hear of the Phillies this offseason. Adding Harper and/or Machado to the fold, along with the acquisitions of Realmuto, McCutchen and Segura would thrust their offense right up there among the league’s best.
The Marlins achieved what they set out to do when they put Realmuto on the trade block many months ago, which was to get an impressive haul of building blocks. Alfaro has present value and Sanchez and Stewart have plenty of potential in the future.
With nine games scheduled in Miami in 2019, expect Realmuto to still get plenty of cheers in Marlins Park.
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