Bryce Harper has long been a big fan of J.T. Realmuto, preceding either player’s arrival in Philadelphia. Many times, Harper has referred to Realmuto as his “favorite player.”
Back in the summer of 2018, when Realmuto was on the trading block but remained on the Marlins past the deadline, he had a walk-off hit against the Nationals. In Washington’s clubhouse after the game, Harper said this:
“If that guy was on our side, that wouldn’t have happened.”
This is relevant again because the Phillies can resume negotiating a contract extension with Realmuto, a free agent after 2020, beginning today at noon. Transactions and negotiations had been frozen during MLB’s coronavirus shutdown.
It’s about a lot more than making Harper happy but that is obviously a key consideration. He’s the face of the franchise and he’s made clear time and again that he wants to play with Realmuto for a long time.
It’s not hard to see why Harper loves him some J.T. The Phillies’ catcher can hit, hit for power, run and defend his position better than anyone in baseball right now.
“He’s very impressive off the field, as well,” Harper said last summer. “He’s a family man. Unbelievable dad and husband. Just a great person. It’s an honor to play with him each day and learn something each day. It’s a lot of fun.”
Harper threw this on Instagram early Thursday afternoon, reacting to a link to this Realmuto piece from Jim Salisbury.
Joe Mauer, who signed the biggest contract ever for a catcher (eight years, $184 million), was done catching halfway into his deal, by age 31. Concussions were the culprit. A catcher knows whenever he’s in the crouch that he’s one foul tip away from real harm.
Buster Posey has suffered two concussions via foul tips within the last three seasons. In those three years, his age 30-32 seasons, he has averaged 96 games caught per year compared to 119 in his prime. His offense has also slipped substantially.
Then there’s Yadier Molina, who catches 70 percent or more of the Cardinals’ games every year and has since 2005. Nearly 38 years old, that wear and tear has yet to end Molina’s days behind the plate.
Realmuto does not have the concussion history of Mauer or Posey, but those split-second events and all that wear-and-tear give teams a lot to consider when negotiating a deal that could reach a number like $140 million and pay a player into his age-35 season. More considerations than there would be for a corner outfielder.
The Phillies are committed to getting this deal done, though. You can’t live in fear of what might happen when you have a player as talented as Realmuto in the fold.
The Phils didn’t trade their top prospect, Sixto Sanchez, to have Realmuto for about 200 games. They did it to have Realmuto for closer to 900 games, some of which are ideally played in October.
And if it was up to Harper, that deal would get done today.