MLB: Dollar values of the best catchers

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11: St. Louis Cardinals Catcher Yadier Molina (4) during a game between the Colorado Rockies and the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on September 11, 2019 at Coors Field in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 11: St. Louis Cardinals Catcher Yadier Molina (4) during a game between the Colorado Rockies and the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on September 11, 2019 at Coors Field in Denver, CO. (Photo by Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

2. J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies, $3.870 million value; $5.9 million contract

The Phillies acquired Realmuto from Miami during the winter of 2018-19 as the consensus built that he was the game’s rising star behind the plate  At age 28 and in his sixth season, he justified that reputation with a .275 average, 25 home runs, 83 RBIs and a 108 OPS+.

That worked out to be worth $3.408 million in catcher’s dollars, a bit less than the $3.54 million his salary would have expected.

But the Phillies were paying Realmuto for the entirety of his game, not just his bat. Behind the plate, he saved 11 runs, the game’s ninth best figure, equating to another $421,000.

Working with the Philadelphia staff, Realmuto turned out to be a relatively neutral pitch framer. He saved a net of 1 run via framing, good for 15th, and equating to about $41,000 in salary value.

Realmuto is entering his third arbitration season in 2020, and his will be an interesting case. Third-years normally project to make between $10 million and $12 million, and the early betting on Realmuto has him squarely in the center at $11 million.

Based purely on on-field performance, it’s impossible for him to justify that kind of expenditure, so the factors Phillies management have to weigh include whether he brings any valued esoterics to the equation, such as an immeasurable but valued relationship with the pitching staff. Then they have to quantify that esoteric.

Finally, they have to determine whether there is any viable alternative to Realmuto. If not, it may be pay-up time.