Yankees and Mets could battle it out for JT Realmuto this offseason as both clubs need to fix catching woes
There are barely enough big catchers to get around in Major League Baseball, especially those that are free agents this off-season.
By now, every baseball fan knows that Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is among the top three representatives in the 2020-21 class. Realmuto's future at the Phillies is in serious doubt following his one-year $ 10 million deal after the final game of the World Series. The 29-year-old backstop, who is expected to land a contract worth more than $ 23 million per year, should have a choice of landing spots this off-season.
To make the competition even more exciting, the Yankees may join Steve Cohen's Mets in search of a starting catcher this winter. Do both New York baseball teams bid on Realmuto?
The Mets hold a team option for Wilson Ramos for an additional $ 10 million, including a $ 1.5 million buyout that the club is not expected to exercise. Ramos ended the second season of his two-year $ 19 million Mets deal with an OPS of 0.684 and a WAR of 0.2. He lost playing time to Robinson Chirinos after the Mets took him over from the Rangers at close of trade. Chirinos also has a team option for $ 6.5 million with a buyout of $ 1.5 million.
The Yankees made it clear several times during their playoff run, which ended in game 5 of the ALDS on Friday with a brutal 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, that they no longer trust Gary Sanchez. He was on the starting line-up for only two of their seven postseason games against the Cleveland Indians and Rays. Sanchez went 8-1 - his only goal was a home run in Game 1 of the Wild Card series - and struck four times.
But perhaps the most obvious sign of Aaron Boone's distrust of Sanchez on either side of the ball was Friday night's eighth inning. Boone went to Mike Ford to meet catcher Kyle Higashioka with a tie of 1. Ford, who fought 0.496 OPS against 0.135 in 29 regular season games for the Yankees and hadn't hit a hit since August, worked a full count against Diego Castillo before freezing on the third strike.
After the defeat, a melancholy Boone said it was "definitely a tough call" to pinch Sanchez with the left-wing Ford, but thought he had to do it. Sanchez hit the bottom of the eighth inning for Aroldis Chapman when Mike Brosseau jumped closer on a 100-mile fastball from the Yankees and fell into disuse for the series win.
Sanchez ended a staggering 2020 regular season, his sixth year with the Yankees, with a worst catcher average of 0.147 with at least 170 record appearances. His .618 OPS and 69 OPS + were among the worst in the MLB and were by far the lowest in his career. Its strike rates have steadily increased from 23% in 2017 to 36% in 2020. Unless Sanchez suddenly stops getting worse, his future with the Yankees is bleak.
While Realmuto is the obvious choice behind the plate for both the Yankees and the Mets, White Sox backstop James McCann, Rays catcher Mike Zunino, 38-year-old Yadier Molina, and Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki are other free-agent Options. All catchers in this free agent class will be at least 30 years old by the 2021 season.
In the race for Realmuto, hedge fund billionaire Cohen could outbid the Yankees if both Big Apple teams decide. Cohen signed an agreement to purchase the Mets and a controlling stake for official approval of the transfer of power is expected soon. Given the status of the rivals in Crosstown at the catcher position, it is very likely that Realmuto will see some real competition between the Yankees and Mets with Cohen's deep pockets this off-season.
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