On Thursday afternoon, the Philadelphia sent Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart, and international slot money to Miami for J.T. Realmuto.
Realmuto has widely been regarded as the best Catcher in the game following a 4.8 fWAR season for a rebuilding Marlins club. Marlins Park has not been favorable for him throughout his career, hitting .269/.329/.444 with 8 HRs at home in 2018, compared to .283/.350/.520 with 13 HRs and a 134 wRC+ away from Miami. A move to Citizens Bank Park should be very favorable for his numbers as his current road numbers project him at about 30 HRs and being an overall elite hitter at the worst hitting position in baseball. His 3 year road wRC+ is a 137, or higher mark than star free agents Bryce Harper (134) and Manny Machado (102). What makes Realmuto the best in the game is not only his elite bat, but also his ability to run and field. Statcast times him with a 28.6 ft per second sprint speed, first among all catchers. He also ranks first in pop time (1.9 seconds), second in arm strength (87.8 mph), and was an above average framer.
Jorge Alfaro is only 3 years younger than Realmuto, and has loads of potential, as a do it all catcher, run, hit and field, but he never put it all together at the major league level. He had some bright spots, but for a team that was looking to contend, he was a below average catcher. Will Stewart was a nice 20 year old pitcher with a high ground ball rate at single A, and has a chance to become a back end starter, even if he is still a bit rough around the edges. While Stewart will most likely not live up to the Chris Sale billing, as commented by Jayson Stark of The Athletic, the centerpiece of the deal, Sixto Sanchez has drawn Pedro Martinez comparisons. At just 20 years old, he has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues. However, he still has not pitched 200 innings in a full year, and there is real concerns about his stamina and his proneness to injury. A move to the bullpen is a very real possibility and the Phillies would likely not have parted with the consensus top-25 prospect if they were not concerned internally about his future. The Phillies did not want to give up one of their “big 4” hitting prospects. They successfully kept hold of Alec Bohm, Luis Garcia, Adam Haseley, and Mickey Moniak, which led to the inclusion of Sanchez in the trade. The Phillies pitcher’s still includes a group comprised of talented guys under the age of 26 including Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Jerad Eickhoff. This doesn’t include other promising arms in the minors like Adonis Medina or Spencer Howard. Their pitching now, and in the future, is still in very good hands, even without any upgrades to the organization.
It has been known that the 28 year old star, who is a free agent in 2 years, would not enter contract negotiations with the Marlins. Phillies GM Matt Klentak even went so far in his press conference to say that it is “better to date someone first before asking to marry.” Even if there was no built in negotiation window, there are reports that both sides are optimistic that they can make this a long term arrangement.
Fun Fact: 4 out of the 5 NL East teams will have a different catcher, that, wait for it, started at Catcher for a different NL East team in 2018. Realmuto to Philly, Alfaro to Miami, Wilson Ramos to New York from Philadelphia, and Kurt Suzuki moving to Washington from Atlanta.
As I alluded to in my previous column about the David Robertson signing, Klentak and MacPhail have checked off every single box on their off-season, except for one, a superstar. They have turned a lineup that comprised of one of the worst offenses and defenses in 2018 into a great offense with league average defense and greatly improved a bullpen that struggled many points last year. The Marlins were demanding a haul in return for Realmuto earlier this off-season, including the likes of Conforto/Nimmo/Rosario, Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar, and Fernando Tatis Jr. The Phillies front office should consider the trade a big win for them as they paid much less than the firm asking price for other teams.
Ultimately, I have been adamant that in order for the Phillies to become become championship contenders in 2019 and beyond, they needed to acquire two stars and three other above average players. With Robertson, McCutchen, and Segura now on roster, it was important to get 2 superstars either through trade (Realmuto or Kluber), or free agency (Harper or Machado). Everything is lining up for one of the 26 year old free agents to put pen to paper in Philadelphia, as Bryce Harper is a noted admirer of J.T. Realmuto’s talents and has been quoted saying as such.
Just based off of the lineup without Macharper, the Phillies are projected for an increase of close to 8 wins, before the bullpen or any pitching improvements.
This improvement should take an 80 win team up to around 88. Then factor in around a 3 win improvement from Nick Williams to Bryce or Franco to Machado and we are at 91. Factor in Robertson and growth from the pitching staff, bullpen, and coaching and there is another 3-4 win improvement. Then, take into account Hoskins, Kingery, Hererra taking steps forward along with outside additions improving their offense after coming to a very hitters friendly park. While the realistic external expectations settle around 85 wins, internal expectations, along with mine, should be at least 90 wins and a playoff spot. Once the team makes the playoffs, it’s anybody’s game and about whichever team gets hot at the right time.
The bottom line is that Philadelphia has shown an ambition to win this off-season with the moves thus far improving their biggest weaknesses; with Macharper still on the market, fans should expect a very competitive playoff team come this fall.
I completely agree with your sentiment about Sanchez not staying healthy and throwing enough innings. But how many SP (specifically prospects) routinely throw 200 innings in a season – not very many.