George Springer and Marcus Semien headline the 2020-21 free agent class behind Realmuto. Other notable impending free agents include Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, Marcell Ozuna, and Marcus Stroman.
During a conference call Saturday, Realmuto told reporters the Betts contract is “definitely positive” for the upcoming free agent class because it shows that no matter how much owners cry poor following the shutdown, they still have money to spend. Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the transcript:
With Betts locked up, the No. 1 free agent on the market this offseason will be Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto. The game’s best all-around catcher turned only 29 in March and hit a solid .275/.328/.493 with 25 home runs to go with his typically excellent defensive numbers last season. Realmuto is 1 for 8 with a home run through two games this year. The COVID-19 pandemic forced MLB to shut down for close to four months and the league lost billions in revenue. Those revenue losses will be passed down to the players via free agency and arbitration, and while Betts will still be paid handsomely, his new contract is short of what he appeared to be in line to receive just six months ago, after a good winter for elite free agents.
A five-year extension would cover Realmuto’s age 30-34 seasons. Yasmani Grandal, one of the few catchers whose all-around game is comparable to Realmuto’s, will earn .25 million during his age 30-34 seasons (all free agent years). Prior to the pandemic, Grandal’s .25 million felt like the floor for Realmuto. Teams would have to start their offers there and come up.
In terms of new dollars, the Betts deal is the largest contract in baseball history, beating out the 10-year, 0 million extension Mike Trout signed last spring. Betts narrowly beat Trout’s total guarantee record but had to take two extra years and accept a ton of salary deferrals to do it. In terms of average annual value, Mookie’s deal is only — “only” — the 12th richest in history.
Earlier this week the Los Angeles Dodgers signed superstar Mookie Betts . The 12-year extension is worth 5 million, though 5 million is deferred and won’t be fully paid out until 2044. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports the MLBPA calculates the present day value of the contract at 6.7 million.
Only two catchers have received contracts worth at least million a year: Joe Mauer ( million from 2011-18) and Yadier Molina ( million from 2018-20). Realmuto was close to a lock to join them prior to the shutdown and he still might. The Betts deal shows there is still money to be spent in this game and there are worse ways to spend it than on a prime-aged star catcher.
“It was definitely positive to see for baseball knowing that teams still do have that money,” Realmuto said.
Of course, it takes two to tango, and a bidding war for Realmuto could be fierce even in a depressed free agent climate. The Angels, Rangers, and Nationals all stand out as teams that could potentially pursue Realmuto aggressively this winter. Maybe even the Mets should they get a new owner between now and then. The Phillies would have competition for their catcher on the open market. No doubt. “Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I still think that the teams at the top of the market are going to be willing to spend money. Some teams are going to take advantage of the situation where half or maybe three-quarters of the league might not be interested in spending as much money. Other teams are going to really go for it and push for those players. It was good to see [Betts] get what he deserves.”