He would be an upgrade, no doubt, but one trade by itself might not quite get the 2019 Braves to the promised land.
The chorus rising to suggest – even demand – that the Atlanta Braves trade for catcher J.T. Realmuto has been getting quite loud in the past several days. In all honesty, I don’t wish to suggest that this isn’t the right course of action, either.
If anything, that chorus was even more energized today with the announcement – it certainly sounded like an announcement – from Realmuto’s agent that he’s done with the Miami Marlins as soon as possible: there would be no possibility of a contract extension.
Here’s the story, as reported by MLBTradeRumors:
In an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM today (Twitter link, with audio), agent Jeff Berry of CAA Baseball told host Scott Braun that Realmuto “has informed the Marlins’ ownership, he’s informed their front office he’s not going to sign an extension in Miami.” Berry also indicated that he thinks Realmuto “will definitely be wearing a different uniform” by Spring Training 2019.
I’d go a bit further than simply saying “he thinks…”. The actual quote was “He will definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of Spring Training.” (emphasis added)
These are strong words coming from agent Jeff Berry – words that are obviously intended to elicit a response. As I see it, the Marlins have 2 options:
- Trade him now – with 2 years remaining on his team-controlled, arbitration-eligible status.
- Wait him out with the realization that their maximum trade value for the player is right now… and put up with having a disgruntled catcher in the clubhouse that has no motivation to support his pitching staff.
Clearly, the Marlins need to act, and the Braves are very well-positioned to make this a mutually-beneficial exchange. In all honesty, the best scenario for all parties concerned would be for the Marlins to make a deal – to some club – before the Winter Meetings begin on December 9th in Las Vegas.
Let’s say that the Braves do actually pull off this deal, though: what should we expect? Let’s look at the past:
In 2017 and 2018, the Braves operated with a 2-headed catcher situation: Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki. The pair combined to appear in 368 games (I know – more than 2 seasons), 1363 plate appearances, and a 7.9 fWAR rating.
In those same 2 seasons, Realmuto appeared in 266 games, 1110 PA, and an 8.6 fWAR.
With Flowers filling in the gaps for Realmuto’s rest days, that’s a pretty potent combination, but not all together different from what the Braves already enjoyed with catcher Flow-zuki.
A total production level of around 5.0-5.5 fWAR would be a reasonable guess for “Flow-muto”, though note this: in 2017, “Flow-zuki” hit 5.0 (while Realmuto hit and gloved a 3.8 rating).
Still think he’s a panacea?
The addition of the best offensive catcher in baseball (at least the best full-time catcher) would indeed be huge, but I think it debatable whether he would be enough of an add-on to move the Braves into the top echelon of the National League… unless his happiness in leaving Miami gives him a Yelich-esque boost.
That could happen… but there is also reason to believe that Realmuto would only provide an incremental bump (then again, he did manage 38 homers in 2018 for a Marlins team generally bereft of talent).
Still, such a trade would signal that the Braves were ‘all in’… perhaps just one more bat or one more pitcher (or both??) away from greatness.
At this point, I’m not even concerned about what kind of prospects that Braves might have to cede for Realmuto. He’d be costly, no doubt, but the message in doing such a trade would be “we’re here – and we’re in this”.
Clearly, in signing Flowers alone, Atlanta has already sent a signal that they want an upgrade.
Now we just have to wait for the ‘who’, but temper your excitement a bit, for we’re only talking about one piece to the full puzzle.