‘Sign J.T.’ has become a rallying cry around Philadelphia over the last few months, and it’s not hard to understand why.
For one, the Phillies acquired J.T. Realmuto in a deal with the Marlins that cost them a number of assets including top prospect Sixto Sanchez, currently the No. 5 right-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. Another reason is that Realmuto was good last season. Like, very good. His 4.5 WAR was first among all qualifying catchers in Major League Baseball in 2019, and he was well-rounded: third in oWAR and fourth in dWAR. And lastly, the fans like to rally behind the desires of other star players, and the latest Phillie to show his support for J.T. is a fairly big one.
Harper also dressed in support of his catcher comrade earlier in the week.
It’s great to see Harper pulling for Realmuto, as the two of them came together to completely reverse the fortunes of an otherwise dismal Phillies franchise of the mid-2010s. Though Harper is the megastar and the undisputed face of the Phils’ offense, let it be known that Realmuto was the only All-Star representative of the Phillies in 2019.
The Phillies, like every other team in baseball, are in a tough spot right now when it comes to managing finances and payroll amid the coronavirus pandemic. No one knows quite how long it will last, or quite how much it will affect league finances, or just about how anything could change as a result of this worldwide disaster. General manager Matt Klentak acknowledged that though the two parties have been in talks about an extension since much earlier in the offseason, the pandemic is more than a slight hitch in the process.
“The landscape that we left in March is different from the one we return to now,” Klentak told the Philadelphia Inquirer (h/t Mark Powell of Fansided). “We just have to see how that manifests itself in our discussions. We still love the player, we’d still love to have him in red pinstripes for the long haul. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels. We just need to play that out.”
A number value of the deal could fall somewhere along the lines of Paul Goldschmidt's five-year, $130 million extension, and that the goal for Realmuto and his agents is to exceed Buster Posey's eight-year, $159 million extension, as noted by RADIO.COM Sports insider Jon Heyman on the Big Time Baseball podcast earlier in March.
Should the Phillies let Realmuto go, it would be sure to spark an outrage among the fans considering all of the factors above, but for now, fans are simultaneously pleading and optimistic that a deal will eventually fall into place.