J.T. Realmuto’s deal the worst among top 5 free agents, according to MLB Trade Rumors poll

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Corey Seidman
·4 min read
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Realmuto’s deal ranked the worst among top 5 free agents in poll originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Maybe it’s because he’s already dealing with an injury, maybe it’s because he’s a catcher, but J.T. Realmuto is a distant fifth in MLBTradeRumors’ poll asking which of this offseason’s five richest contracts was the best from a team perspective.

Among 12,170 votes, Realmuto has just 9.8%, the only player of the five with a percentage in single-digits. 

Here were the results through 12 hours:

  • D.J. LeMahieu: 29.03% (3,533 votes)

  • Marcell Ozuna: 28.96% (3,524)

  • Trevor Bauer: 20.8% (2,530)

  • George Springer: 11.4% (1,387)

  • J.T. Realmuto: 9.8% (1,196)

Let's work backwards:

Realmuto

Realmuto is dealing with a small fracture in the base of his right thumb. He is confident he’ll be ready for opening day, and he can do mostly everything now except throw.

His placement in this poll illustrates the skepticism from many that he will live up to the contract. If you ran this poll in Philly, the results would probably be in Realmuto’s favor, whereas nationally the results are mixed.

A big question with this deal is, “Will Realmuto maintain the athleticism that makes him the best catcher in baseball?” He is among the best of the best in receiving, throwing and framing pitches. He has graded out as MLB’s fastest baserunning catcher three years in a row. His offense has also grown as he’s become more of a power threat, slugging .489 the last three seasons compared to .428 the prior four.

It is difficult to compare Realmuto’s defense and baserunning to catchers of previous eras because trustworthy metrics for those aspects of the game didn’t exist for most of baseball’s history. 

What we can look at, though, is offense from catchers from ages 30-34, the timeframe Realmuto’s contract covers.

Realmuto has an .825 OPS as a Phillie. Over the last 38 years, only six catchers with at least 1,500 plate appearances had an OPS that high in their age 30-34 seasons:

  • Mike Piazza

  • Ivan Rodriguez

  • Darren Daulton

  • Jorge Posada

  • Javy Lopez

  • Mike Stanley

The success of the Realmuto deal will also be largely based on how the Phillies perform from 2021 through 2025. We’ve seen productive individual performances in recent years from Phils like Bryce Harper, Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola but the combination of those performances has not yet led to a playoff berth.

Springer

Springer went to the Blue Jays on a six-year deal worth $150 million. That number is right in line with what he’d have likely gotten in a normal, non-pandemic year. The Mets reportedly also made a strong offer of $125 million but couldn’t close the deal.

This deal covers Springer’s age-31 through age-36 seasons. There is no denying his talent and well-rounded skill set. Over the last five years, he’s hit .273/.363/.500 and averaged 37 homers, 97 RBI and 122 runs scored per 162 games.

He’s also been a big playoff performer, hitting .339 with seven homers and seven doubles in 14 World Series games.

He has played more than 140 games in the regular season only once in his seven-year career.

Bauer

Bauer’s contract is $102 million over three years ($3 million less than his reported offer from the Mets), and it has opt-outs after the first and second years. 

He is coming off of an excellent season but does not have the kind of track record you’d associate with a $40 million player. This was a telling graphic from SNY.

SNY

Ozuna

News of the Ozuna deal came the same day Trevor Bauer spurned the Mets for the Dodgers. Ozuna will earn $65 million over four years from the Braves after a 2020 season in which he led the National League in home runs (18) and RBI (56) while hitting .338.

As with LeMahieu’s contract, it’s hard to find fault in a deal that pays a good player $14-15 million per year. Consider that Jean Segura is playing out a five-year, $70 million contract with the same AAV. 

LeMahieu

LeMahieu signed a six-year, $90 million contract to return to the Yankees after two awesome seasons. Coming over from Colorado with questions about whether he could remain a strong hitter away from Coors Field, LeMahieu has hit .336 with a .922 OPS in 871 plate appearances as a Yankee. He’s finished third and fourth in AL MVP voting the last two seasons.

It is not surprising that this is viewed as the shrewdest deal of the five given the AAV. LeMahieu wanted to hit that $90 million number and to do so, the Yankees went a year longer to reduce his luxury tax figure, which is based on the contract’s average annual value. LeMahieu will average $15 million per year during the deal, which runs through his age-38 season.

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