Braves fans have waited patiently for months, and we’ve finally got a juicy free agency rumor to report. Earlier today, Robert Murray leaked that Atlanta is ‘circling on’ Phillies All-Star catcher JT Realmuto.
Braves circling on free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto, according to league sources. Other teams on the west coast are expressing interest.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) January 21, 2021
If you remember, the Braves were constantly linked to Realmuto when he was being traded from the Marlins. However, the Fish were reportedly asking for studs like Mike Soroka, Austin Riley, and more. Atlanta rightfully passed, but the Phillies were willing to part ways with Sixto Sanchez and some, which would lead to a deal getting done — one I’m sure Philadelphia likely regrets today. And they will mourn it even more if he somehow ends up in Atlanta in free agency.
When I heard this report, my first couple of thoughts were “WOW” and “where the hell is he going to play?” The Braves have Travis d’Arnaud locked up for one more year, and he was the best hitting catcher in baseball last season. Atlanta also has two top-ten prospects at the catcher position — William Contreras and Shea Langeliers. Now, Realmuto is obviously an upgrade; he’s the best catcher in baseball, and the Braves would be inking him to a long-term contract. However, I began to think, “is there a way this could all work out in 2021?”
The most logical conclusion is that the Braves plan for the DH to be in the National League this upcoming season. If that’s the case, Realmuto — one of the best defensive catchers around — could spend most of his time behind the plate, with d’Arnaud receiving DH at-bats. However, even if there is no DH in the National League, perhaps the Braves could move things around a bit.
My initial brainstorming began with, “Realmuto, despite being a catcher, is a solid athlete and could probably play left field.” However, most of Realmuto’s value comes from being behind the plate, as he’s nearly impossible to run on and tremendous defensively. It wouldn’t make much sense to pay over $100 million for him to roam the outfield. That means Travis d’Arnaud would serve more in a platoon role, and while that would be nice, the Braves offense wouldn’t be upgrading much — at least not in 2021.
On top of that, Realmuto isn’t the classic right-handed slugger the Braves are looking for behind Ozuna. He has power but has only hit for 25 home runs once in his career and has never topped that number. He’s still fantastic, but his career .783 OPS suggests he’s just an above-average bat rather than an elite one.
Another thing to consider is his age. Realmuto will be 30 next season and is looking for around a five to a six-year deal. Catchers don’t always age the best, and we know Alex Anthopoulos has a hesitancy towards handing out long-term contracts.
In conclusion, would Realmuto be an exciting blockbuster signing that Braves fans have been waiting for? Absolutely. Does the fit — at least for next year — make a whole lot of sense? Not so much. Even looking down the road, it doesn’t make too much sense. The Braves have two high-quality prospects at the position and have to begin thinking about extensions for Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Max Fried, and Mike Soroka. I would love to have Realmuto, but this seems much more like smoke than fire. That changes a bit if the DH does come to the National League next season.