Phillies: Could the pandemic cost them J.T. Realmuto?

As the Phillies get closer to a playoff berth, Realmuto's hitting will play a major role in the team's success. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images.
As the Phillies get closer to a playoff berth, Realmuto's hitting will play a major role in the team's success. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. /
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J.T. Realmuto will be a free agent this coming winter however much baseball is played this season. Could the pandemic situation cost Phillies his services?

The Saturday paper sat in a tied-off transparent bag on the porch in the rain. The headlines weren’t good, and neither was the news about Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto buried in paragraph six of a story in Sports.

Scott Lauber was reporting on the deal between MLB owners and the MLB Players Union through the lens of Phillies fans keeping a side-eye on negotiations between Realmuto and their team.

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What he wrote was this: “As part of the MLB/MLBPA deal, a freeze will be imposed on all transactions, from optioning players to the minor leagues to trades and signings. It’s not yet clear whether the Phillies will be permitted to even keep talking with Realmuto’s camp about a future deal.”

Line one of this article, and featured prominently elsewhere, was the news that “season or no season,” Realmuto will be a free agent this coming winter, as will others slated to be.

If no negotiations are actually allowed, what happens to the thinking of the best catcher in baseball about his situation? He has played only one year in Philly, and if this season ends up being cancelled, will he think, “Well, this Phillies thing was not meant to be”?

Indeed, even if the suspension of play drags on into late summer, or even fall, and then there’s a 60-game schedule played in neutral sites in front of no crowds, what does he think? Is that his second year with Philadelphia?

Moreover, whether there are or aren’t continued negotiations while suspended play drags on, Realmuto will have to think he’s going to be low-balled when he finally signs a contract with any team.

In which case, as Phillies fans will instantly tell you, any player will want to be gone from the City of Brotherly Love.

Why? Don’t the Phillies have Bryce Harper and a somewhat stacked lineup now? Doesn’t Harper consider Realmuto vital?

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Non-Phillies fans don’t get it. As a friend puts it, the first reason JTR could leave is just “Philadelphia.”  Brian Dawkins was let go by the Eagles: “Philadelphia.” When Carson Wentz was injured, that friend texted just that one word. Twice. Andrew McCutchen tore up his knee? “Philadelphia.”

In 1964, when the Phillies blew a huge lead in the NL pennant race, people undoubtedly passed co-workers and just said, “Philadelphia.”

The second reason Realmuto is likely to consider walking is that he’s a country boy, who may well actually want to get out of a pressure-packed, infected big city. The third reason is the back end of the Phillies rotation, an unsettled mess involving three or four guys who will only be getting older, for a while, sitting on their sofas.

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In other words, Phillies fans have to hope there is truth in a certain politician’s magical-thinking declaration that the COVID-19 pandemic will one day very soon just vanish.

Philadelphia.