Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto can become a free agent after the 2020 season as his contract expires. There may be no bigger advocate of his continued tenure in Philadelphia than teammate Bryce Harper. On Wednesday afternoon, during an intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Realmuto hit an opposite-field home run off of Cole Irvin. As Realmuto returned to the dugout, Harper was heard yelling, “Sign him!”
Last week, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia detailed Harper’s fandom of Realmuto. As Harper took batting practice on Friday, he was seen wearing a Realmuto t-shirt with the catcher’s No. 10 on the back. The shirt was a giveaway during a game in August last season. Harper often wore those shirts under his uniform during the second half of the 2019 season and wore the shirt three days in a row during the early days of training camp.
Harper said it would be “terrible and sad” if the Phillies don’t sign Realmuto to a contract extension. “I think there’s a lot of other teams out there that are going to want to sign the guy,” Harper said. “He’s a Gold Glove-caliber catcher every year, he’s a great person, a great player. I mean everybody in this organization from the top down wants to see him in red pinstripes for the rest of his career and hopefully we can make that happen.”
Recently, GM Matt Klentak spoke about extending Realmuto but did not make any promises. He remarked, “The landscape we left in March is different from the landscape now. We have to see how that manifests itself. We still love the player and want to have him for the long haul. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. We need to factor that in.”
Realmuto, 29, was an All-Star and a winner of both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award last year. He hit .275/.328/.493 with 36 doubles, 25 home runs, 83 RBI, and 92 runs scored over 593 plate appearances. He was the best in the game at throwing out runners, nailing 47 percent of attempted base-stealers. FanGraphs credited Realmuto with 5.7 Wins Above Replacement, the best mark among catchers. Yasmani Grandal was second at 5.2 and Mitch Garver was third at 3.9. Depending on which stats you prefer, Realmuto is arguably the best catcher in baseball, so it’s easy to see why Harper would want the Phillies to keep him around.