By: Chris Larson & Eric Jacinto
After weeks and weeks and what felt like a painstakingly long period of time, the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes officially ended today. The Philadelphia Phillies traded for J.T. Realmuto in exchange of P Sixto Sanchez, C Jorge Alfaro, P Will Stewart, and international slot money.
All offseason long, the Miami Marlins had been listening to offers on J.T. Realmuto, but it wasn't until about the past week that things moved to the very serious stage. At the start of the offseason, Miami made Realmuto available and at that time there were about a dozen teams involved in the derby, but thanks to a market that was flooded with free agent catchers, some of those interested teams went the free agent route and decided to hang onto their precious prospects instead.
Fast forward to the time right around the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, the second week of December, and at that point the Miami Marlins said they basically didn't have to trade him. Presumably, no team had made an offer that had blown the socks off the feet of the Marlins front office brass and weren't willing to meet the steep asking price of the team.
Thus, discussions continued and pushed to the new year in which, come the middle part of January, there were four teams said to be in the race for the Marlins catcher. Those four teams were the: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, and Cincinnati Reds. Discussions with those four clubs continued with the Marlins for almost an entire month before the Philadelphia Phillies entered the picture at the start of this week and ultimately ended up beating out the other offers on the table.
Throughout the process, there were whispers coming out about what offers might or might not have been on the table and some of those things become clearer today. According to various reports, the Cincinnati Reds were interested in dealing a package including their fourth best prospect, Jonathan India, along with catcher, Tucker Barnhart, and a third piece to Miami. Furthermore, it was rumored that the Miami Marlins had asked the Los Angeles Dodgers for star, Cody Bellinger, back in return to which the Dodgers quickly said no to. Then, earlier today, Mark Bowman, beat writer for MLB.com with the Atlanta Braves, confirmed that the Marlins had interest in Braves third base prospect, Austin Reiley, but Atlanta ended up backing out when discussions got to the point where the Braves felt like they were overpaying.
As a result, the Philadelphia Phillies felt as though they had the best offer on the table and they obviously did. The Miami Marlins are receiving a high ceiling arm back in, Sixto Sanchez, even though there's a high risk of injury that comes with him. Sanchez had to miss the entirety of the Arizona Fall League this past fall after suffering a setback, during his recovery process, for an elbow injury that happened last June. For the Marlins, the good news is that Sanchez is still only 20 years old and will likely end up being their best prospect right off the bat.
Additionally, the Marlins received back catcher, Jorge Alfaro, another high ceiling, high risk type of player, but one that could end up paying off huge dividends for a young, rebuilding Marlins club. Alfaro will slot right into Realmuto's old role with the team and continues to get better on both sides of the ball with each passing season. Beyond that, pitcher, Will Stewart, is someone the Miami Marlins had picked from the Philadelphia Phillies farm system and is yet another young prospect at, 21 years old, who the Marlins can help develop and mature. Stewart finished last season with a 2.06 ERA over 113.2 IP with 90 strikeouts and a .218 Batting Average Against.
Overall, the Miami Marlins did well in their return and got back not only their new big league catcher, but some high-end pitching talent as well. Of course, the results cannot be determined today about the Marlins return, but on paper, it looks like a high-end one. As Philadelphia Phillies General Manager, Matt Klentak, said today in an interview with Matt Breen of Philly.com, "It was tough to trade Sixto Sanchez and it was tough to trade Will Stewart." That statement right there helps to illustrate the impact that both Sanchez and Stewart could have had at the big league level with the Phillies, but Philadelphia knew they had to give up some serious talent to acquire a player like, J.T. Realmuto.
That leads to the Philadelphia Phillies side of this trade. Basically in a nutshell, the Phillies did a tremendous job and hit a home run with this trade. J.T. Realmuto is the type of player that is extremely hard to acquire, especially given that he is a catcher, and is absolutely someone who will fit tremendously well behind the dish for the Phillies big league squad. Not only did the Phillies upgrade at their catching position, they also lengthened their lineup with someone that can fit into the 4 or 5 hole.
Realmuto concluded last season with a 4.8 WAR, had the highest caught stealing percentage among catchers, and earned his first All-Star nod. The best part is that the Phillies are acquiring him right during the middle of his peak, Realmuto turns 28 next month, and they are getting a catcher that can truly help improve the results of their pitching staff, as soon as, this coming season. Pitching was a problem at certain times last season for the Phillies, but when you are able to add a defensive-minded catcher, such as J.T. Realmuto, it's a huge upgrade and thats exactly what Philadelphia did here.
With the moves the Phillies have made this winter, they are on the uprise and certainly making things interesting in the National League East. Don't forget the Phillies added centerfielder, Andrew McCutchen, on a free agent deal earlier this winter, traded for shortstop, Jean Segura of the Seattle Mariners, and upgraded their bullpen with the acquisition of free agent reliever, David Robertson. The good news is that the team remains engaged on every big free agent still out there, most notably Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, which means that there could be more excitement to come to the City of Brotherly Love.
For now, the Philadelphia Phillies just acquired the best catcher in the game of baseball, a five-win player who has tremendous upside, and bolstered their team again to keep up with the likes of the Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves. J.T. Realmuto ended the 2018 season as a Marlin, but now he's a Fightin' Phil, the perfect representation for a player that has a bulldog mentality like Realmuto does.
I wasn't on board at first in trading Sixto Sanchez but with his injury history that had the Phillies not sending Sanchez to the Arizona Fall League due to a set back in his recovery from an elbow injury that he suffered last June.
I like this trade very much as the Phillies got the best catcher. J.T. Realmuto is an all-around catcher that can hit for power and average and is a very good defensive catcher. He is very good at calling games so that will be a plus for the young Phillies pitchers.