The Mets continue contacting the Marlins about All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The catcher and his agent have been vocal about wanting to be traded from the rebuilding Marlins to a winning team that could be interested in signing him to a long-term contract extension. He is likely to earn a combined $15-20 million the next two seasons, after which he’ll be a free agent at age 29.
The Fish, who have traded away most of their assets under the new ownership that includes former Yankee captain Derek Jeter, have made it clear they would want a king’s ransom of prospects and players in return.
In a deal for Realmuto, the Mets are more likely to offer Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto plus prospects than trade Amed Rosario, sources told SNY’s Andy Martino.
According to a source in Miami, the Mets have been among the more consistent and aggressive teams pushing on the Marlins to make a deal.
In addition, I was told Jeter’s Marlins would prefer Rosario and at least one top 100 prospect from the Mets, which, at this point, would be infielder Andres Gimenez or 1B Peter Alonso. Not coincidentally, I imagine, Brodie Van Wagenen said Tuesday that he’s more than comfortable having Alonso be his starting first baseman on Opening Day.
The other offers coming at Miami are more prospect-heavy and few players with big-league experience, similar to what they accepted last winter in deals for Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
By the way, from what I’ve heard, while the Marlins would prefer to deal Realmuto out of the division, reports of them being less willing to trade with the Mets, Nationals and Braves has been overstated, with the leak designed more to up their offers.
To gauge the trade value of Realmuto, I talked in early November with multiple MLB insiders, including two agents, two league executives and three talent evaluators. The consensus then was that, while Miami was not requiring a team’s top prospect be in the deal, it did want one or two prospects considered to be among the Top 100 in baseball, as well as a third, mid-level prospect with significant upside. Or, one established, young big-league player making the league minimum and under contract for at least four or five more years.
Based on projections by Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs, Realmuto is the only current catcher in baseball likely to produce more than 10 WAR during the next five seasons, while remaining behind the plate the entire time.
“He’s the most prominent name on the trade market, no doubt,” I was told by an NL East executive from a team with reported interest. “He’s their last big chip and — for a team that says it’s rebuilding — they can’t afford to mess this up.”
According to market makers, if he were a free agent today signing only a two-year deal, he’d likely get a $60-70 million contract. In other words, he’s one helluva bargain when you consider the position he plays and how much he’ll be paid compared to what he’s expected to produce on field and behind the plate.
Last week, the Mets tendered a contract to catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Kevin Plawecki will likely earn around $2 million next season, which is his first year eligible for arbitration. He is not a free agent until after 2021.
“We went into this (offseason) thinking that if we could improve our defense behind the plate, we’d look to do that, but we’re not going to do that at the expense of making our team better,” Van Wagenen said Tuesday. However, he continued, though he very much likes both of his current catchers, “If we have an opportunity to be productive in our pursuits, we have to be open minded.”
In the end, a potential move for Realmuto cannot be made in a vacuum. Again, from what I’ve heard out of people with the Marlins is that they know the framework of a deal with the Mets, as well as with other teams. My hunch is if they want a big-league player in return, Van Wagenen may be Jeter’s best fit. If Jeter wants a bundle of prospects, the Mets cannot compete with other teams reportedly interested.
That said, if the Marlins pull the trigger on a deal to send Realmuto to the Mets, whether Van Wagenen parts with Nimmo or Rosario, he’s going to need to know how he’s filling the sudden void at shortstop or corner outfield. If that means signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, I don’t care who among Nimmo or Rosario is dealt for Realmuto, who is widely considered the best catcher in baseball. However, if acquiring Realmuto is followed up by signing Asdrubal Cabrera or picking up Billy Hamilton, I’d rather keep things as is…
Based on how Van Wagenen has so far operated and presented himself this winter, and being made aware of rumors that he has at least one more big move up his sleeve, my hunch is if he trades for Realmuto it will not be followed up by spreading out a bed of pennies. Brodie is a big thinker, he likes big moves, and so I remain confident that no matter what path he chooses, it’ll lead to a place that keeps Mets fans motivated and excited about 2019.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans’ Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!