I’ll admit that when I saw the Braves-in-on-J.T.-Realmuto rumors, I had the same reaction as most folks: well this is clearly being ginned up by his agent, with the happy help from the Braves, so that the price tag/urgency on the Phillies can get cranked up.
That’s *probably* all it is.
But two things dropped this morning that have me wondering if the Braves really are about to shake up the catching market in a really fundamental way. First, you have David O’Brien (local source) not entirely dismissing the idea of a real Realmuto pursuit:
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) January 22, 2021
That “unless” part is this:
One way signing Realmuto might make sense would be if the Braves had a trade lined up to acquire a power-hitting left fielder or third baseman in exchange for d’Arnaud, who obviously would not be kept as an $8 million backup if they signed Realmuto.
But even in that scenario, signing a free agent to a nine-figure contract and making him one of the highest-paid players at his position (if not the highest), does not fit the Braves’ modus operandi, to say the least.
Having said all that, we go back to the point about famously covert Anthopolous making unexpected moves. This would be such a move. A very big one. But it remains unclear how much validity there is to the rumor.
Then you had a nearly simultaneous comment from Jon Morosi, also about the possibility of the Braves signing Realmuto and making Travis d’Arnaud available in trade:
If the #Braves sign J.T. Realmuto, they are sure to find a market for Travis d'Arnaud at one year and $8 million. The #Angels — who have outfield depth — are one landing spot for d'Arnaud. And new Angels GM Perry Minasian is a close friend of Alex Anthopoulos. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 22, 2021
To be sure, the Braves could keep both guys given the likely presence of the designated hitter in the NL this year, but the Braves still fancy themselves in the market for a big bat at third base or in left field (depending on where Austin Riley plays), so adding Realmuto AND keeping d’Arnaud AND adding another bat seems like a whole lot.
So, if the Braves did shock everyone and drop nine figures on Realmuto, they would immediately do crazy things to the catching market. For one, they’d have taken the top guy off the market without themselves having been viewed as a “catching needy” team that was a suitor for Realmuto in the first place. That would leave possible other bidders like the Phillies or Blue Jays or Nationals or Angels or whoever else is lurking now scrambling for a different impact catcher.
For another thing, the Braves would then be able to offer a relatively inexpensive one-year impact catcher on the trade market; nobody anywhere has been expecting that Travis d’Arnaud might be available, so it would take a hot minute to figure out where the Braves might be able to shop him.
It’s not hard to see the potential impact on a Willson Contreras market here, given rumors that have attached him to the Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, and Angels.
My gut still says the Braves aren’t going to actually step up for Realmuto, and the Phillies will eventually just get this thing done. But this is certainly an interesting wrinkle.