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Running It Back: Is Realmuto Worth His Historic Contract With the Phillies?

 

J.T. Realmuto’s new deal is a record-setter for a free-agent catcher. Is he worth it? More than anything, it might depend on whether he’s able to help the Phillies end their lengthy playoff drought. 

By: Sacha Pisani

J.T. Realmuto is getting paid.

Arguably the best all-around catcher in MLB, Realmuto has signed a lucrative five-year contract to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Realmuto’s new deal is reportedly worth $115.5 million, which sets a record average annual value for a catcher at $23.1 million per season – eclipsing Joe Mauer’s $23 million per season for the Minnesota Twins (2011-18).

The 29-year-old Realmuto, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins in a four-player trade two years ago, is just the third catcher in league history to sign a contract in excess of $100 million but the first to sign a deal worth more than $100 million in free agency after being acquired from the Miami Marlins.

The Phillies, who had previously inked former NL MVP Bryce Harper to a massive deal, have now locked up a two-time All-Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner.

Let’s take a look at the numbers behind Realmuto’s return to Philadelphia as the playoff-chasing Phillies eye an upturn in fortunes in 2021.

One of MLB’s Finest

While the big-hitting Harper dominates the headlines, Realmuto is arguably Philadelphia’s most important player.

Over the last two seasons, the Phillies have won 52.8% (94-84) of their games with Realmuto in the starting lineup. But they’ve won just 34.1% (15-29) in his absence. Additionally, the Phillies average 5.2 runs when Realmuto takes to the field compared to 3.4 when he’s rested or sidelined.

Sluggers Harper, left, and Realmuto, right, are locked into the middle of Philadelphia’s lineup. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Since joining the Phillies in 2019, Realmuto ranks first in a number of categories among catchers – RBI (115), slugging percentage (.492), hits (194), runs (125), doubles (42) – and is tied for second in home runs (34).

Realmuto found a home in Philadelphia’s No. 4 spot in the lineup last season. His 11 home runs in the clean-up role ranked second only to the Cincinnati Reds’ Eugenio Suarez (13) among clean-up hitters, while his 31 RBIs were third.

Behind the plate, Realmuto has thrown out 41 runners trying to steal over the past two seasons – 14 more than any other catcher. He’s also thrown out 39.0% of runners attempting to steal since joining the Phillies, second among those with at least 100 games caught (Roberto Perez, 45.0%) over that span.

Realmuto is one of three Phillies catchers to win a Gold Glove (2019), along with Bob Boone (1978 and 1979) and Mike Lieberthal (1999).

He has 95 home runs and 44 stolen bases in his 732 career games. The only other catcher in MLB history to have at least 90 homers and 40 steals within his first 750 career games was Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk.

Realmuto has proven his durability and defensive skills since his first full season in 2015. He ranks second in MLB with 5,615.1 innings caught (behind Yadier Molina) and in runners thrown out stealing with 113 (behind Jonathan Lucroy).

Realmuto was one of the top players available on the free-agent market. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Playoffs Prove Elusive 

For all of Realmuto’s impressive numbers, there is one glaring absence – he’s never played in the postseason.

Realmuto’s 732 career games are the most by any active catcher who has never featured in the playoffs. It comes as the Phillies try to end their current postseason drought. They haven’t made the playoffs or even finished with a winning record since going 102-60 in 2011.

Philadelphia, which went 28-32 in Joe Girardi’s first season in 2020, has gone nine consecutive seasons without a playoff berth – second only to the Seattle Mariners (19) for the longest active drought in MLB.

At the same time, the Phillies have finished .500 or worse in nine straight seasons, the longest such run in the majors by a long shot over the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels (both five).

 

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