Posted on February 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
After more than a year of rumors and speculation, the Miami Marlins have finally pulled the trigger on a trade involving catcher J.T. Realmuto. On Thursday, the Marlins sent Realmuto the Philadelphia Phillies. In exchange, the Marlins have received catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, as well as an international bonus slot.
The Phillies have been one of the most consistent teams in asking the Marlins about Realmuto over the past year. Miami has remained hesitant about trading him within the NL East. They also had a half dozen other teams with serious interest in acquiring the catcher. However, the Phillies ultimately made the Marlins the best offer they received.
For the Phillies, acquiring Realmuto is a potential game-changer for a team that has high aspirations heading into 2019. While the 27-year-old has just two years left before free agency, he has developed into arguably the best catcher in baseball. Realmuto hit .277 with an OPS of .825 last season. He also hit a career-high 21 home runs. In addition to his offensive production, Realmuto is also one of the most reliable defensive catchers in the game. His ability to impact games on both sides him incredibly value, especially since he’s entering his prime.
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Realmuto joins a Philadelphia lineup that includes several other young and promising hitters, including Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Scott Kingery. The Phillies have also added veterans Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura earlier this offseason. Philadelphia is also very much in the running to sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Even if they don’t sign either player, Realmuto gives them another productive bat in the middle of their order. He will be a significant upgrade over Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, their primary catchers for most of last season.
Meanwhile, the Marlins continue to stock their farm system by trading Realmuto. While Miami has acquired a lot of young talent since beginning a full-scale rebuild last winter, they are surely more than two years away from being a serious competitor in the NL East. With that being the case, it didn’t make sense to keep Realmuto, especially considering the impressive haul they received in return.
Sanchez is the biggest piece going to the Marlins. He immediately becomes Miami’s top prospect, rated no. 21 in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Sanchez made just eight starts in advanced-A ball last year, so he’s likely a year or more away from the majors. However, he has the ceiling of a no. 1 starter, so he could potentially grow into Miami’s ace of the future.
Alfaro, on the other hand, figures to be Miami’s opening day catcher in 2019 and beyond. He started 98 games behind the plate for the Phillies last season, hitting .262 with an OPS of .731. A year ago, he was one of the top catching prospects in baseball and his offensive upside remains high. Defensively, Alfaro has some work to do, although he does have the arm strength to help control the running game. He may not be Realmuto, but he’s certainly the kind of young catchers the Marlins could rebuild around.
Stewart, meanwhile, is a less heralded prospect. The Phillies selected him in the 20th round of the 2015 draft. But he had an exceptional season in A-ball last year, going 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA across 20 starts, including two complete games. He could be a late-bloomer worth watching and will at least add a little depth to Miami’s farm system.
Ultimately, both teams should be satisfied with this trade. The Phillies get the catcher they’ve coveted for so long and a player who will help them compete for a playoff spot over the next two seasons. As for the Marlins, they replace a proven catcher with a young and promising backstop. They also get one of the better pitching prospects in baseball and another prospect with a little bit of promise. It may have taken Miami a long time to finally deal Realmuto, but the return could end up being worth the wait.