The Philadelphia Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto Dance needs a brand-new tune

Bryce Harper, L, and J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Bryce Harper, L, and J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies need to figure out what is going on with J.T. Realmuto once and for all.

As we wander in our own homes, and on the streets outside masked, into the holidays, Philadelphia Phillies fans are wondering how much longer the Realmuto Dance will go on. For possible baseball fans in Korea, Japan, or Australia who don’t know who J.T. Realmuto is, suffice it to say he is the most expensive MLB free agent in the States this year, baseball’s best catcher.

And Phillies fans, I know – you know this. Australia’s being dragged into this because everybody is really running out of ways to approach this subject, which is a 20-gallon pot of acid on the stove about to boil over if the Phillies don’t re-sign him. Signing this star might put the team on a course to incur a competitive-balance tax penalty next year, in the second straight, uncertain MLB season.

This is deemed a bad thing, even though the owners of the Phillies are literally among the wealthiest people in the near vicinity. People who hope to hold onto journalists’ jobs, as many other jobs disappear, regularly wring their hands in prose over this supposedly grand dilemma for the team ownership.

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Writers tip-toe around “signs” the Phillies might not be interested in paying Realmuto’s cost. For example, on December 15, Matt Gelb tweeted the news that the Phillies had signed catcher Christian Bethancourt to a minor league deal with an invitation to their MLB spring training.

Bethancourt, who has also played the outfield and pitched in relief in a 12-professional career (including parts of five years in MLB), is being signed for “upper-minors depth at catcher,” according to Gelb. The player himself likely told himself he has a shot to make the Phillies as the backup catcher.

Phillies fans are muttering to themselves, “Wrong catcher – longish name like the right guy, but – wrong guy.”

That day another Philly mainstream writer, Scott Lauber, also touched on the Realmuto matter in an article about agent Scott Boras’ Phillies clients, writing, “[I]f the Phillies are going to splurge for anyone in free agency, it might be Realmuto. As popular as he is among fans, he’s even more coveted by [Bryce] Harperwho has lobb[i]ed loudly for the Phillies to retain the All-Star catcher.”

Both of these gentlemen know that the Realmuto Dance will very likely continue for weeks, if not months. Thus, we have Breen’s haste to declare Bethancourt a minor leaguer although he might be in Philadelphia come summer. And we have Lauber’s qualifying “if” in his first clause – therefore, read “probably won’t be Realmuto” instead of “might be Realmuto” in the second. That’s what all the signs have suggested.

However, what if the signs were to somehow change? What if, instead of the 457th story about Harper’s support for Realmuto the next time this situation is written about, the report is that Harper has re-structured his extremely lucrative current deal so that he will be the one covering any luxury tax the team must pay as of Opening Day?

If that tax turns out to be over a designated exorbitant figure, it can be spread out over three years against the outfielder’s contract. Final figures can be filled in on the signed document later.

It’ll never happen, you say. Harper and the other Phillies know what the team’s owners are worth, and besides, MLB contracts are rarely re-structured.

But it’s not a “never” thing. And what if several other Phillies veterans offered to chip in on Harper’s offer. Hey, ROY runner-up Alec Bohm might even offer to throw in $500.

Then, where would Phillies ownership go? To a Marlins-like dismantling? That seems doubtful. Could such a gesture also depress Realmuto’s ultimate demands?

Next. Recalibrating the Phillies future. dark

How much do the Philadelphia Phillies players themselves really value the best catcher in baseball?