Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto says contract talks ‘haven’t really gone anywhere’

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Many Phillies fans are concerned about the future of All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is in the final year of his contract and still without an extension. 

Analyzing the situation and seeing what’s best for the Phillies, it’s hard to find a justifiable reason not to extend Realmuto. In fact, it’s safe to say there isn’t one. He’s an All-Star catcher — arguably the best in baseball — franchise player Bryce Harper loves him, and the Phils gave up a top pitching prospect in Sixto Sanchez to acquire Realmuto from the Marlins prior to the 2019 season. 

The Phillies have always indicated they want to extend 29-year-old Realmuto. But about three days after the pandemic-induced roster freeze ended — which prohibited negotiations — general manager Matt Klentak admitted that talks had not yet resumed with Realmuto or his representation. The focus was put on intake screening with players who were returning to their teams for summer camp. 

“The landscape that we left in March is gonna be different than the one we return to now, and we just have to see how that manifests itself in our discussions,” Klentak said candidly about two weeks ago.

The GM appeared to allude to the financial uncertainty in baseball, with revenue taking a hit this year. 

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels, so we just need to factor all that in,” he added.

Thursday afternoon, at his first press conference in months, Realmuto made it seem like talks had still not progressed. He was asked if he decided to play out the 60-game season and then go into free agency, or if he would prefer to negotiate something earlier. 

“If you guys don’t mind, I would appreciate it if we could kind of keep the questions away from the contract situation just because we were in the really preliminary stages early on and in spring training before the pandemic, and we haven’t really gone anywhere since then, so if we could focus on the team here and speak a little bit less about myself, that would be greatly appreciated,” he said.

Although Realmuto tried to deflect the conversation, the contract situation still came up. 

Realmuto said he understands the business, and he isn’t frustrated at the situation. He’s focused on winning this season and still loves the organization. 

“They’ve been great to me and my family since I showed up. From top to bottom, they’re just good people and they care about baseball,” he said. “That’s really important to me.”

One person in particular who’s been “Team J.T.” is Harper, who wore a Realmuto shirt on the first day of camp 2.0.

Harper's home and is repping a J.T. Realmuto shirsey. --[via @MLBNetwork> pic.twitter.com/Ru0J5M0HBK

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 1, 2020

Harper downplayed the meaning of wearing a No. 10 Realmuto shirt, saying he did so last year too, and it was comfortable under his jersey. 

But earlier this week during an intrasquad scrimmage, Realmuto hit a home run, and Harper is heard on video shouting, “Sign him!” 

Watch Bryce Harper yell out“Sign Him!”After JT Realmuto HR in Phillies scrimmage todaypic.twitter.com/vuIle5iNCd

— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) July 8, 2020

Realmuto implied Harper was simply having fun with the situation.

“I hope (Harper) owns a team one day, honestly. I might be able to catch till I’m 60 if he owns a team, so hopefully,” said Realmuto, adding, “it’s all in good fun.”  

Make no mistake about it: Harper wants Realmuto to be a Phillie for many more years to come. Even if messages to the front office aren’t being purposefully sent out, they’re being sent nonetheless, because the outside world is talking about Realmuto’s contract situation. 

What will happen remains to be seen. On June 29, Klentak appeared to explain how things are different now with the way revenue has been affected. There hasn’t been a game yet, but when they resume, no fans will be in the stadiums — for the most part, if not the entire season.

Realmuto was asked if he’s concerned if the financial state of baseball will affect free agency in the upcoming off-season. 

“It definitely concerns me,” Realmuto said. “I don’t, necessarily not for myself, but it does concern me for the free agency class as a whole. … The top guys usually find a way to get their dollars. Teams are gonna want them. Maybe if it’s not 20 teams that are in on you, now they’ll be five to 10 of them. 

“I just think that a lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and to actually go for it, instead of backing off as half the league will probably try to cut revenue and save some money. The other ones will look at it as an advantage to maybe go forward, and press forward. So, I think it could affect free agency as a whole, but myself, I’m not really too worried about it.”

If the Phillies still don’t have Realmuto extended long-term, the questions could keep coming, even throughout a shortened 60-game season.