Blue Jays: Why J.T. Realmuto Is The Perfect Free Agent Addition
The Toronto Blue Jays have been linked to almost every free agent this offseason. Of all the choices, I think J.T. Realmuto is the best option
About two months ago, Craig Mish reported that the Jays have interest in free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto. At the time I didn’t understand the interest, as the Jays have a plethora of young catching talent with guys who are big-league ready like Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and Alejandro Kirk and prospects such as Gabriel Moreno and Riley Adams. To me, it didn’t seem like a good idea to spend on a position of strength and that their money would be better spent elsewhere. Despite my initial opinion, over the last two months, my opinion has changed on this matter and I believe that bringing in Realmuto might be the best free agent move the Jays can make this offseason.
Right off the bat, this move makes sense for the Jays offseason goals. Ross Atkins stated that he wants the team to improve on its strike throwing and its defense as a whole. The best way to improve both of these goals would be to improve the catching position and Realmuto is one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball. According to StatCast, Realmuto has been in the 90th percentile in pop time to second base over the last 5 years and was in the 100th percentile in 2018 and 19. This would be a huge upgrade over Jansen, who has never had a pop time above the 25th percentile and finished 57th out of 78 qualified catchers in 2019.
Realmuto’s framing ability is also really good and it has improved over the course of his career going from the 27th percentile in 2015 to the 95th percentile last season. Jansen was in the 26th percentile in framing last year, so bringing in Realmuto should help the Jays pitching staff throw more strikes and overall be more effective. Along with having an excellent pop time and being a fantastic pitch receiver, Realmuto has a .993 fielding percentage, has caught 36% of base runners, racked up 34 fielding runs above average and a Gold Glove award in 2019 over the course of his seven-year career.
Along with being an elite defender, Realmuto can also rake. His career slash line sits a really nice .278, .328, and .455. He’s also developed into a power threat as well, belting 21, 25, and 11(shortened season on pace for 30) home runs over the last three seasons and posting an OPS above .820 in all of them. Realmuto did see a slight dip in his average last year, hitting .266 which was his lowest since 2015. This is still a solid average for a catcher as it was the second-highest behind only Boston’s Christian Vazquez. If Realmuto signs with the Jays, he’ll be playing in the AL East, a division that features a lot of hitter-friendly ballparks. This would really benefit him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he breaks the 30 home run mark and gets his average back up to his career norm.
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With his elite offensive and defensive play, it is no surprise that Realmuto is considered one of the best back stops in baseball. Despite how good of a player he is, Realmuto may actually fall into the Jays lap. As we know, COVID had a huge effect on baseball last season and with no fans in the stands, teams lost a lot of money. Because of this, only a handful of teams are looking to spend this offseason and most of them have their catching position figured out.
Teams who are suspected to be spenders are teams like the Dodgers who have Will Smith, a 25-year-old former top prospect with a ton of upside, and the White Sox who have Yasmani Grandal, who they gave a four year 73 million dollar deal to last offseason and are unlikely looking to replace him. Then there’s the Mets who at the start of the offseason seemed to be the most realistic landing spot for Realmuto, but after inking James McCann to a 4-year deal, this likely pulls them out of the running for him as well. Other teams who could be spenders are the Yankees and Angels but they have much bigger needs in their rotations.
The Phillies could also be interested as they recently hired Dave Dombrowski to be their President so bringing Realmuto back could be a focus for him, but like the Yankees and Angels, they have much bigger needs in their bullpen. Realmuto is a great player and the thought of there being no market for him is surprising, but it’s a strange offseason, so there are bound to be surprising things that happen. Maybe one of them is getting Realmuto at a bargain price.
Bringing in Realmuto does pose a problem as after adding Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno to the 40 man roster the Jays now have five catchers on it. Having five catchers on your 40 man is arguably too many. Adding Realmuto would give the Jays six, so corresponding moves would have to be made. Of the five catchers, three of them have already played in the MLB in Danny Janson, Reece McGuire, and Alejandro Kirk.
The other two, Adams and Moreno are prospects in the Jays farm system ranking 23rd and 8th respectively. All of these catchers are under the age of 25 and could be seen as potential trade chips by other teams if the Jays bring in Realmuto.
If the Jays do bring in Realmuto, it will be on a four or five-year deal meaning that unless you plan on moving him off catcher during his contract, none of the other five catchers on your 40 man will ever have the opportunity to be your full time starting catcher at the big league level. Janson is a free agent after the 2024 season and McGuire’s contract is up after 2025 so at most they will be back-ups to Realmuto for the rest of their time in Toronto.
Even a prospect like Moreno who is only 20 years old and 2 years away from the big leagues probably won’t get the opportunity to be a starting catcher for the Jays if they bring in Realmuto, as he will be 24, 25, or even 26 when Realmuto’s deal is up and which is well past the point he will be arriving in the bigs. The Jays could get really creative with their catching wealth and use it to acquire a guy like Francisco Lindor, Sonny Gray, Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, or Josh Hader just to name a few.
Bringing in Realmuto would give the Jays one of the best catchers in baseball who would be an upgrade both offensively and defensively. It would also allow them to use their catching wealth to acquire more big-league talent and to improve their roster in other areas, making them a better team all around.
Yes, guys like LeMahieu, Springer, and Bauer are on the market and are all great players but Realmuto is younger than all of them and not only helps the Jays with both of their offseason goals of getting better defensively and throwing strikes, he opens the door to more potential moves. Combining all of this with the potential market, or lack of one is why I think J.T Realmuto is the perfect offseason addition for the Jays.