While it is almost a sure bet catcher J.T. Realmuto will not be in a Miami Marlins uniform next season, where he plays is up to his current team.
After Realmuto announced through his agent that he did not want to sign a long-term deal with the ball club, the news of his departure has overshadowed almost every other baseball story. Realistically, this is a story that could play out over the course of the offseason, much like both Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Otani handcuffed MLB free agency last season.
Where the 27-year-old star will end up is anyone’s guess, but the Marlins ultimately will decide where he plays in 2019. With two years of arbitration eligibility left the message from the Marlins front office is short and decisive – Realmuto may not want to be in Miami and that’s his decision. Where he swings a bat next year is theirs to make.
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"As Jason Wilson of thescore.com, “The list of suitors will be lengthy. Who wouldn’t want the best hitting catcher in the game on their roster, after all?“There are some teams who will be better fits than others, but don’t be surprised when one of the following five contenders pulls off one of the offseason’s biggest blockbusters.”"
Wilson lists the Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and the Milwaukee Brewers as possible landing spots. Personally, I would add the New York Yankees to that list, especially if Gary Sanchez comes back in a deal along with minor league prospects.
Now the question becomes what is a catcher who made $2.9 million last season and could make as much as $6.1 million in arbitration worth to a team looking to make a deal? There are some plot twists that could develop from this most recent news. As Joe Frisaro of MLB.com points out, the Marlins should not be in any hurry to get a deal done that will impact this team, potentially in a negative fashion.
"“The comments by Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, this week certainly created a trade-rumor firestorm,” Frisaro wrote. “How the Marlins respond is the next step, and I believe we will get more clarity next week at the General Managers Meetings.”"
The idea of a Realmuto for Sanchez deal is quite realistic given the teams’ familiarity with each other and the Yankees looking for possibly someone to replace Sanchez who has injury concerns. The Dodgers have solid minor league prospects to offer. The Nationals have been pursuing Realmuto since before the start of Spring Training last season.
Houston could use Realmuto behind the dish. Milwaukee presents a nice opportunity for Realmuto to join a contender and be reunited with former teammate Christian Yelich. There is another side to this potential saga that Frisaro addresses as well.
"“The bottom line is this: If the Marlins are presented an offer they find attractive enough to make a trade, they will consider it. The Nationals, Astros, Dodgers, Braves and perhaps the Yankees are potential trade partners,” he wrote."
The Marlins are in better position to be players in free agency this season with a better handle on their payroll for the upcoming season. That may have something to do with how they pursue replacing Realmuto if a deal gets done. It was Realmuto who asked to be traded after Stanton was sent to New York last season. The ripple effect was at least 12 teams showing interest in a possible trade.
The Nationals appeared to be the most anxious franchise, but a deal could never get done prior to the start of the season or at the MLB Trade Deadline.