By: Chris Larson
J.T. Realmuto has quietly become one of the best catchers in the game today and when you watch the Marlins, he is one of about a handful of guys whose name is recognizable. After all, the Miami Marlins traded away many of their well-known assets this past winter and will continue to scale things back as the trade deadline approaches.
Among the valuable pieces that the Marlins currently have on their roster is catcher, J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a home-grown player as he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 Amateur Draft by the organization and has been a steady force behind the dish year in and year out since 2014 when he made his official MLB debut. Over that time, Realmuto has not only established his value for the Marlins and the fans in the Miami area, but also among the rest of baseball when you compare him to other catchers in the league.
Dating back to the 2014 regular season, Realmuto ranks second behind, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, in batting average (.285) over 1,911 plate appearances, comes in sixth in slugging percentage (.447), and ranks fourth in BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) (.327) over that span as well. In addition, Realmuto has a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) value of (108), good enough for 7th place among qualified catchers, and a 12.7 WAR, the third highest among catchers, over the last 4 and 1/2 seasons.
Furthermore, Realmuto also has above average defensive skills as well, which allow Realmuto to be an asset for any team, although he is more known for his bat. Since 2014, Realmuto ranks 11th, among catchers who have caught at least 100 innings, with a Defensive rating value of (37.5) and has a FSR (Fangraph Scouting Report) value of 2, putting him in the above average category. FSR is a fan voting process, through FanGraphs, that allows fans to rank players based on their Defensive abilities and considering that, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals ranks with 48 and Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals ranks 42 in that category, Realmuto has a ways to go before he is considered an elite defender.
More recently this season with the Marlins, Realmuto has three Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and has 5.5 Defensive value rating over 521 innings of work. Based on Defense that would put Realmuto 7th among active catchers and from a Defensive Runs Saved perspective, Realmuto ranks in the middle of the pack. Essentially, in the grand scheme of things, Realmuto would probably receive higher marks for his Offensive skills compared to his Defensive metrics, but J.T. Realmuto is still very highly regarded around the game and that is why he has developed the notion of quietly being one of the best catchers in the game the past couple of seasons.
Since J.T. Realmuto is highly regarded throughout the industry, the Miami Marlins have come to the realization that they have both a valuable trade asset on their hands, who could bring back a phenomenal haul for their farm system, as well as a catcher who could be the face of their franchise moving forward. Both of those are options that the Marlins are going to have to consider and something that the rest of baseball will have to sit back and watch to see what they ultimately elect to do. Regardless, there has been chatter over the past month, that the Marlins are looking into the potential of extending J.T. Realmuto, but those talks are likely ongoing and could even be on hold until this offseason when the Marlins know for sure which route they are going to take.
Still, the Marlins have to be willing to listen on Realmuto, because he is the one guy currently on their 25-man roster, outside of someone like Kyle Barraclough, who would bring back the highest return of any other player. The Marlins have also made Brad Ziegler, Drew Steckenrider, Starlin Castro, and Derek Dietrich available on the trade market, but none of those players will command the return that Realmuto will. After all, Realmuto is under control through 2020 and is being paid an affordable $2.8 million dollar salary this season before he hits arbitration again this off season. Quite a bargain price for any team and one reason why the Marlins have been so hesitant to trade him thus far.
Even this past offseason when the rebuild originally started, the Marlins took the stance that the return for Realmuto was going to have to be extraordinarily high and they would not settle for anything less than their full asking price. There were rumors that the Houston Astros had at least inquired about him, during Spring Training, but a deal did not go through likely because Miami wanted Houston's top prospect, Kyle Tucker, included in the deal, which the Astros have been adamant about holding onto Tucker for quite some time now.
However, there are still a few teams that could use help at the catching position including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, and a team that likely won't be contending this season, the Minnesota Twins. The Diamondbacks probably won't be able to make a deal happen just because they don't have enough quite yet in their farm system, while the Nationals have balked because the Marlins want outfield prospect, Victor Robles, to be included in the deal which Washington does not want to have happen.
For the Minnesota Twins, who lost their primary catcher, Jason Castro, in June to knee surgery, the probability of a trade happening becomes even less likely. The Twins would acquire Realmuto with the thought of having him help them return to contention next season as well as the year after, but their farm system doesn't have enough to make a deal happen. Still, the Twins would love to have someone behind the dish that could provide the Offensive value that Realmuto does, but they will have to empty the farm to make it happen.
Unless a team comes calling over the next few weeks and blows the Marlins away with a significant trade package in return or one of the aforementioned teams above becomes very serious in their pursuit, J.T. Realmuto, will likely still be in a Marlins uniform come August 1st and that's when the Marlins will have a decision to make. They can either make him available again come this offseason when more teams could be interested in trying to acquire him or present him with an extension and make him their face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. Either way, it's a significant decision and one that will have a significant impact of the Marlins organization.