The nearly six-month saga of where J.T. Realmuto would land this offseason finally reached its conclusion yesterday. Unfortunately for the Braves, it was about the worst result that possibly could have happened. Not only did the Braves fail to land Realmuto, but they also allowed him to fall right into the laps of their rivals.
The Philadelphia Phillies completed a deal that included Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart and international bonus money for Realmuto. It’s a nice haul for the Marlins that includes the Phillies consensus #1 prospect in Sixto Sanchez, a major-league piece in catcher Jorge Alfaro and another middle of the road pitching prospect in Will Stewart. Although it was a package the Braves could have easily matched had they saw fit.
The problem was not only the Marlins asking price, but it was the specific players they were interested in. They wanted an MLB-ready talent – like Alfaro – they wanted a top prospect – like Sanchez. According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, “The Braves made it clear that, individually, each of their prospects was available in exchange for J.T. Realmuto. But they were not willing to provide the volume of prospects or the MLB-experienced asset sought by the Marlins.”
There were varying reports on what that major-league piece would have been. Many mentioned Braves All-Star Ozzie Albies, but that was never something Atlanta was going to oblige too, and the Marlins have denied such reports. Perhaps Dansby Swanson was a name that floated around, but even Swanson along with a top prospect was too much for the Braves liking.
Because of Atlanta’s lack of an MLB-ready piece, the conversation moved around Austin Riley, the Braves top prospect according to Baseball America. This may have been a deal that could have worked out, but given how thin the Braves are in their farm system outside of pitching, there had to be severe resistance to moving their third baseman of the future.
However, Marlins reporter Craig Mish did provide us with a little insight on what the final offer from the Braves was to the Marlins, saying it included Austin Riley “but not much else.”
Multiple sources inform me (which will soon be denied) that the Braves final offer to the Marlins for Realmuto did include 3B Austin Riley but "not much else." Miami preferred the Phillies package of Sanchez with Alfaro, and there you have it.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) February 7, 2019
If true, it shows you how much the Braves value Riley, who projects to be a player who will give them 30 home runs on a consistent basis, and is their most likely option to occupy third base next season without spending any money.
Even though Bowman and Mish have gone back and forth through this entire process, their conclusions are similar. The Braves were willing to trade any one of their prospects (Riley) individually. But didn’t want to give up a bulk of prospects in a deal that could leave them much weaker two years down the road when Realmuto’s contract expires. The Phillies were willing to take it a step further, and voila, Realmuto goes from one of the worst hitting parks to a launching pad. He also gets to leave the Marlins. If there’s one for sure winner in all of this, it is Realmuto.
The right decision?
Like any trade, nobody is going to know who won until several years down the road. And it may turn out that both teams got what the wanted; the Phillies an All-Star catcher that helps them win now, and the Marlins the building blocks of their future. But as far as the Braves are concerned, they are in a much different situation than the Phillies.
This thing is built for the long haul – with a playoff product already on the field and a top farm system waiting in the wings. They are in a position where they can afford to be patient and not overpay for a two-year rental, even if he is the best catcher in baseball.
The reality is that the Braves were indeed a year early last year. They have to be looking at it from the perspective of; is our best chance to win a World Series in the next two years or is it a few years down the road? Ideally, AA would like to make that happen as fast as possible. The fanbase clearly wants that as well. But there is no need to overpay to rush that and sacrifice your future for something that might not be in the cards anyways given the current roster configuration.
Alex Anthopoulos balked on an asking price that would have put some severe question marks into the Braves’ plans after this season. Philadelphia gave up quite a lot but are in all-out, win-now mode and are much more financially flexible. That’s not where Atlanta is at right now. The Marlins asking price was high, and Anthopoulos chose not to meet it. In the long-run, it could turn out into a very favorable decision for the organization.