Finding a Match for J.T. Realmuto: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Tampa Bay Rays

Photo: SNY

Rumors revolving Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto have been heating up of late; a number of teams, including the Padres, Dodgers, Reds, Astros, have expressed interest in Realmuto at some point.

Realmuto has played exceptionally well offensively in his previous three seasons. From 2016-18, Realmuto has accumulated 12.3 WAR, which is the best among catchers (Buster Posey comes in at 2nd with 10.0 WAR). In 2018, Realmuto was worth 4.8 WAR (1st in the MLB) in 125 games, slugging 21 HRs (3rd) and hitting for a .277 AVG (3rd among catchers with at least 400 PAs).

His defense is another story. Over the course of the last 3 seasons, Realmuto has conceded 25 runs defensively. With that being said, Realmuto is seen by many as the best catcher in the game. J.T. Realmuto’s contract is very reasonable, as conveyed by FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel:

Realmuto offers the age-28 and age-29 seasons of the best long- and short-term catcher in the game, and he’ll cost between $15 million and $20 million for those seasons, depending on how his arbitration salaries work out. You have him long enough to make two runs at a title and get a comp pick at the end, an exclusive negotiating window for an extension, a non-risky length of a deal, and cheap enough salaries that any team can afford it.

We will integrate FanGraphs’ new Update to Prospect Valuation system in order to most precisely formulate realistic compensation that the Marlins could demand (for J.T. Realmuto) from the Padres, Reds, or Dodgers.

results are presented in present-day WAR and translated to a rough dollar figure based on $9 million as the cost of a win on the free-agent market. Keep in mind that the dollar figure isn’t a direct value, but rather equivalent value of a prospect relative to the free-agent market. Part of the reason prospects have such tremendous value is due to the suppressed salaries permitted by the CBA until a player has reached six years of service time. By translating the WAR figure into a monetary value, we can compare the value of prospects with the values of major-league players and their contracts. These values likely roughly approximate what an individual player might get as a signing bonus if he were declared a free agent and teams could only provide a signing bonus instead of a long-term contract.

FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards

In other words, FanGraphs assigned a monetary value for all minor league prospects (based on how former prospects belonging to that tier / rank performed during the first 9 seasons of their baseball career [“including the season in which a prospect was ranked”]). These values are comparable to current major leaguers (calculated through incorporating WAR [$9 million / 1 WAR] and the cost of the player’s contract). 

J.T. Realmuto’s 2019 Projected WAR (per Steamer): 3.6

For the purpose of this investigation, let’s assume Realmuto is worth 3.6 WAR in 2020 (the final year of his contract) as well.

The calculations for J.T. Realmuto’s surplus monetary value can be seen below…

([3.6 WAR * 2] * $9 million / 1 WAR) – ($15 to $20 million) = $64.8 million – ($15 to $20 million) = $44.8 – $49.8 million in surplus monetary value

Here are some packages Marlins could net for J.T. Realmuto…

Padres

The Padres have arguably the best farm system in the majors. With the plethora of prospects they possess, the Padres have emerged as one of the favorites for Realmuto. One prospect in particular is of interest to the Marlins…

Source: In J.T. Realmuto trade talks, Marlins asking that catcher Francisco Mejía be included in Padres offer.

MLB.com’s Jon Morosi

Francisco Mejia is valued (by FanGraphs) at $43 million. He was ranked as the 26th best prospect in FanGraphs’ most recent top 131 list. There’s a lot to like about Mejia:

  • his arm strength is remarkable
  • he hit 14 HRs in 110 AAA games
  • he hit over .300 in his short time (just over 130 PAs) with the Padres’ AAA affiliate (their hitter-friendly ballpark may have inflated Mejia’s AVG)
  • Struck out less than 19% of the time in AAA

Here are a few concerns:

  • Walked only 5% of the time in AAA
  • In 62 major league PAs, Mejia hit .179 and struck out over 30% of the time
  • May not stick behind the plate

In addition to Mejia, the Marlins could ask for CF Edward Olivares ($6 million). Olivares hit 12 dingers in 575 A+ PAs. Olivares had a .277 AVG and stole 21 bases. His main drawback his lack of plate discipline (5% BB rate).

C Francisco Mejia ($43 million) and CF Edward Olivares for C J.T. Realmuto ($44.8 – $49.8 million)

Reds

[(RHP Hunter Greene $31 million) OR (3B Jonathan India $20 million)], CF Jose Siri ($8 million), RHP Joel Kuhnel ($1 million), and [($9 million if Greene) OR ($20 million if India)] in cash for J.T. Realmuto ($44.5 – $49.8 million)

19-year-old Hunter Greene has extremely upside, but he is undoubtedly a very high risk prospect. He missed the remainder of the 2018 season with a UCL sprain on his right arm. His fastball is electric and can exceed triple digits. Here’s a look at his FB at last year’s Futures Game:

Greene struck out 11.72 batters / 9 IP and walked only 3 batters / 9 IP over 68.1 innings at A. While his ERA was in the mid-4s, his xFIP and FIP were in the low 3s and his BABIP was .353 (these metrics indicate that Greene may have been slightly misfortunate).

3B Jonathan India was picked 5th overall in the 2018 draft. He’s a good defender at 3B, and he hit at a very high level at the University of Florida…

  • AVG: .350
  • OBP: .497
  • G: 68
  • HR: 21

Outfielder Jose Siri also has high upside. He hit 12 HRs in 283 AA PAs and stole 14 bases (in AA). Siri’s AVG and OBP very poor (.229 AVG and .300 OBP) though. Jose Siri will presumably be an above average defender in CF.

Joel Kuhnel’s upside resembles that of a high-leverage bullpen arm. Here is his A+ stat-line:

  • ERA: 3.04
  • FIP: 2.65
  • xFIP: 2.70
  • K/9: 9.45
  • BB/9: 1.86
  • HR/9: 0.34
  • GB: 51.7%
  • WHIP: 1.22

The lone worry I have is that his stuff may not be as overpowering as his strikeout numbers portend. Conceding 54 hits in 53.1 innings at a level as low as A+ is somewhat alarming in my mind.

Dodgers

C Keibert Ruiz ($41 million) and RF DJ Peters ($8 million) for J.T. Realmuto ($44.5 – $49.8 million)

Keibert Ruiz is ranked as the 36th best propsect in all of baseball by FanGraphs. He hit for a .268 AVG in 415 AA PAs. His OBP was .328, and he slugged 12 HRs. Ruiz struck out a mere 8% of the time but only walked around 6% of the time. Ruiz will likely develope into an above average defender behind the plate. He seems like the real deal to me, and I expect him to grow into a high caliber everyday catcher.

DJ Peters is an intriguing prospect as well. While he only hit .236 and struck out frequently (34.3%), Peters possesses a lethal power stroke (29 HRs in 559 AA PAs) and a strong arm. His power could appeal to a Marlins team whose system is barren of position players with power.

Braves

3B Austin Riley  ($43 million) and LHP Joey Wentz ($6 million) for J.T. Realmuto ($44.5 – $49.8 million)

Austin Riley is ranked by FanGraphs as the 28th best prospect in all of baseball. He had .282 AVG in 324 PAs, slugging 12 big flies in that time. Riley also hit 6 HRs in just over 100 AA PAs. He was an XBH machine (27 2Bs between AA and AAA). Austin Riley is certainly ready to contribute at the big league level as soon as 2019.

Joey Wentz is also a highly regarded prospect. He battled several injuries in 2018, but Wentz still managed to put up a 2.28 ERA in 67 A+ innings. His WHIP was very solid (1.09), but Wentz did not generate many swings and misses (K/9: 7.12). If he can stay healthy, Wentz has the ceiling of a #3/4 starter.

Phillies

RHP Sixto Sanchez ($53 million) and C Jorge Alfaro (~$6 million) for C J.T. Realmuto ($44.8 – $49.8 million) and $10 million cash

Sixto Sanchez is ranked by FanGraphs as the 17th best prospect in all of baseball. In 46.2 A+ innings, Sanchez put up a 2.51 ERA, striking out over 8.5 batters / 9 IP and walking just over 2 batters / 9 IP. His GB rate was over 52%, and his WHIP was 1.08. Sanchez surely has the potential to be a top of the rotation arm.

Alfaro was graded by FanGraphs as a 45 FV prospect in 2018 (that’s where the $6 million comes from). Jorge has a cannon arm and solid power (10 HRs in 377 PAs). His batting average was .262. He could presumably take over for Realmuto behind the plate.

Tampa Bay Rays

LHP/1B Brendan McKay ($54 million) for C J.T. Realmuto ($44.8 – $49.8 million) and $5 million cash

McKay, drafted as a two-way player out of college, is ranked by FanGraphs as the 14th best prospect in the MLB. In 47.2 A+ IP, he put up a 3.21 ERA. His K/9 was over 10. and his walk rate was a hair of two. He gave up around 0.35 HRs/9 between A and A+. McKay struggled offensively, hitting for a .210 and striking out 27.3% of the time in 139 PA at A+. There is no doubt McKay will grow into a dominant pitcher, but his offensive profile still has some question marks despite offering power (5 HRs) and patience (10+% BB rate).

Thanks for reading.

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