Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has been at the centre of trade speculation all offseason.
San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds are the two latest teams to be linked with the All-Star catcher, as reported by Ken Rosenthal on Monday.
Miami’s demands have been high all winter. Adrian Morejon is of interest to the Marlins, per Jon Morosi, while Rosenthal added that they are keen on catcher Francisco Mejia and want a Major League outfielder such as Manny Margot.
Morejon is a left-hander, ranked 49th in all of baseball on MLB Pipeline’s 2019 list. Mejia is a catcher, whose future might be in the outfield. He arrived in San Diego in the Brad Hand trade last season and ranks 26th.
Jon Heyman said Miami are interested in Hunter Greene, Taylor Trammell, and Nick Senzel from the Reds. They are three of the top prospects in baseball, ranking 31st, 16th and 6th respectively on MLB pipeline’s recently announced top 100 2019 list.
These high demands are no surprise. The Marlins have asked for the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Braves’ Ozzie Albies in trade talks earlier this offseason. The Mets were involved in discussions before they signed Wilson Ramos, but Brodie van Wagenen was unwilling to meet Miami’s asking price.
Miami traded away 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna last offseason. No players they received in those deals made the top 100 prospect list. Lewis Brinson was the centrepiece of the Yelich trade – Brinson posted a 56 wRC+ in 2018.
The lofty demands for Realmuto feel like an attempt to right the wrongs of last offseason. That’s understandable if you’re the Marlins, but it doesn’t mean another team will help you out by overpaying for Realmuto.
The Astros, Mets, Brewers and Nationals all had a need at catcher. Washington addressed it by trading for Yan Gomes and signing Kurt Suzuki. Milwaukee got a bargain for Yasmani Grandal. The Mets added Ramos and Houston landed Robinson Chirinos. Martin Maldonado, an elite defender, is still a free agent.
Realmuto is good. He was probably the best catcher in baseball last season, though that is not a great accolade considering the weakness of the position currently and difficult seasons for Buster Posey and Willson Contreras.
A 126 wRC+ is great, but it’s his first season as a real force at the plate, having hovered around 110 wRC+ in the two seasons prior. That, of course, is still a good contribution from a catcher. Realmuto, though, is not an elite defender like Grandal, he ranks around league average behind the plate.
Realmuto could be a middle of the order hitter for his remaining two years of control, though that’s not a given considering it has been only one season at that level. Defensively he is okay. He’s the quickest catcher in the Majors by quite a distance with the same sprint speed (28.6 ft/s) as Starling Marte and Lorenzo Cain. His 4.8 BsR ranked 18th in MLB last season.
The price Miami are asking is too high for what Realmuto is. He is a probable All-Star in 2019 but, with just two years of control, that’s not worth giving up elite prospects for San Diego or Cincinnati, nor is it a sensible move to give up Major League proven, controllable youngsters like Albies and Bellinger.
The Padres and Reds are supposedly the two front runners for Realmuto at the moment. For either team, the reported price would be a mistake.
Realmuto over Tucker Barnhart does not sufficiently strengthen the Reds to be division favourites, in fact they are still probably the fourth-best team in the National League Central. Senzel will contribute to the Major League team this season. Greene and Trammell are easier to trade given how far away they are from the Majors, but they are valuable pieces to lose for a trade that will not transform them into contenders.
Losing Mejia and Morejon would be way too much for San Diego, who are still a year or two away from competing. Adding Realmuto still leaves the Padres way behind the Dodgers and Rockies.
It’s been nine years since San Diego had a winning season and 13 since they made the playoffs. The desire to accelerate the end of their rebuild is understandable but giving up multiple high-ceiling prospects for Realmuto would be an unnecessary risk, unless, of course, they are about to go crazy over the remainder of the offseason and transform their roster.
You can’t blame the Marlins for asking for a haul. The risk, as we’ve seen with several other potential suitors, is that they are scared off and sign someone else. Miami have already seen the market for Realmuto shrink, and that may continue while their demands remain so high.