An 11th-hour bid to acquire catcher J.T. Realmuto paid off as the Philadelphia Phillies acquired the Miami Marlins All-Star on Thursday.
J.T. Realmuto is no longer a member of the Miami Marlins. The 27-year-old catcher was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, Minor League left-hander Will Stewart and international bonus pool money.
The move is a bit surprising as it was assumed other MLB teams had maneuvered into position to make a deal, with the Dodgers, Padres, Reds, Rays, and Braves making their strongest offers in the past few days.
The Phillies have shown interest in Realmuto, who demanded a trade from the organization after the 2018 season, since July of last year. All four National League East teams showed interest in Realmuto at some point over the last year.
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While the Braves were believed by many to still be a frontrunner throughout this process, the Phillies were able to offer their top minor league prospect in the deal, which pushed them to the front of the line.
"“The deal brings closure to one of the most speculated trade scenarios in years,” writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “The entire offseason was consumed with where Realmuto may wind up, and he was finally dealt six days before pitchers and catchers workouts begin for the Marlins.”"
The move may also open other opportunities for free agents who have yet to sign with other teams. While Realmuto’s situation with the Marlins may not have handcuffed the free agent market, it could have affected it, seeing where one of the best catchers in the game today landed.
The move also means the Marlins can look to add a veteran arm in the bullpen and potentially another veteran for bench depth. That was part of the plan Michael Hill, president of baseball operations for the organization, spoke about at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas last month.
The trade of Realmuto has other significance in that it represents the final “core” piece to the organization from the Jeffrey Loria-led ownership of the franchise. Miami, under the new ownership of Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman, created a firestorm of controversy by trading Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich last offseason.
The return of minor league prospects was not enough to overcome the youth of the roster, which is still developing.
The Marlins have acquired several pitching prospects who will become cornerstone pieces to this blueprint Jeter has spoken about since he took over as CEO of the franchise in Oct. 2017.
Realmuto voiced his displeasure for Jeter’s dismantling of the team, where he asked to be traded before Spring Training last season. He and the front office met before Spring Training, discussing options for the upcoming season, asking him to buy into the new plan for the organization. He led the Marlins with 21 home runs and 74 RBI for the season.
He was by far the team’s most valuable asset and the most marketable face. Losing him creates a void at the plate and defensively, while the Marlins still develop a youthful pitching staff that has many question marks heading into camp next week.
What happens now is the Marlins head to Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida minus one of their leaders and the need for someone else to assume the role of power hitter/clutch performer. The team added both Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson recently in low cost/high reward deals that could pan out and help this team win more than 63 games as it did last year.
In the end, it was the Marlins who stood firm in their desires in a trade, What started out with as many as 12 teams looking to play “Let’s Make A Deal” the demand of MLB players prospects appeared to be too high for one player. The Dodgers balked at a deal involving Cody Bellinger. The Braves did not want to part with Ozzie Albies at it had once been reported.
The Reds offered high-profile minor leaguers. The Padres had a rich minor league system to draw from. The Rays had outfield prospects it could part with. None were as appealing as Sanchez, as Jeff Passan of ESPN.com wrote.
"“Sanchez is the most well-regarded prospect in the deal, a 6-foot right-hander whose fastball sits in the high 90s and tops out over 100 mph,” Passan explained."
"“The 20-year-old missed a majority of the 2018 season with elbow inflammation. Alfaro, 25, is a power-hitting, cannon-armed catcher who will join a young group in Miami. Stewart, 21, excelled in Class A last season, going 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts.”"