In 71 games this season, Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto has already been as valuable as he was in 141 games last season, when he set his career high in fWAR. Among all position players, the 27-year-old catcher’s 3.6 fWAR is 16th in the major leagues. When you look at just catchers, this mark is tops by an entire win.
Realmuto has potentially evolved into the best catcher in the game. His bat is outstanding, as he carries a .312/.366/.535 slash line over 311 plate appearances. He has hit 12 home runs, driven in 45 RBIs and boasts a 144 wRC+, a mark that is 60 points higher than expected of the MLB-average catcher. That makes him among the best hitters in baseball, let alone the best-hitting catchers.
Defensively, Realmuto’s numbers are solid, though not elite. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) mark, Realmuto has been worth 2.6 defensive runs above average this season. That’s far from his 16.1 mark last year, but it still goes to show that he is an above-average defender at the position as well.
With the Marlins sitting in fourth place in the National League East, questions have begun to swirl around whether they would be interested in trading J.T. Realmuto. His value has never been higher than it is right now, and, as we saw in the Brad Hand trade between the Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres, it is advantageous to trade players that are under contract control beyond this season; in other words, trade them before they become a rental.
With Realmuto under contract through the 2020 season, the Marlins could do just that. Playing a premium position, the ball is in Miami’s court. There is little pressure to make the trade; the Marlins only have to deal Realmuto if they find the “right” deal for him. And if they don’t, the team has even more options in the offseason. They could revisit trade talks with interested teams or even look to extend Realmuto even further.
Since Realmuto would be an upgrade at the catcher position for virtually every single team in baseball, he is sure to garner a lot of interest from around the league. The Marlins’ reported high asking price, however, should limit the number of suitors down to those who have a serious need at the position. The one team that has been connected to Realmuto the most have been the Washington Nationals.
In late June, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said on MLB Network Radio that the team would be unwilling to meet the Marlins’ high asking price for Realmuto:
“They’ve got a great player in Realmuto. They’re not going to sell him cheap. We know what the return has to be on Realmuto, and we’re not willing to meet that price. So unless something changes there, on their end, we’re going to go with Wieters when he gets healthy and a combination of Severino and Kieboom to back him up.”
When Rizzo made those comments on June 22nd, the Nationals were 40-34 and just a half-game out of a playoff spot. As of this writing, the Nationals are 48-49 and six games out of a playoff spot. This is likely why Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported last week that the Nationals could “revisit” trade talks with the Marlins over Realmuto, and that there is now some unconfirmed belief that the Nationals could deal star prospect Victor Robles in order to make the move.
Nationals’ catchers have been by far the worst in the majors. As a group, they have been “worth” -0.9 fWAR this season. Matt Wieters, who has been their best option, has hit .207/.303/.333 in 100 plate appearances, spending most of the season on the disabled list. If Washington wants to make any run at the postseason, upgrading behind the plate would be a great idea. Whether that means they acquire Realmuto remains to be seen.
The larger lesson here is this: it will take a lot in order to pry Realmuto away from the Marlins, especially since they may be considering to extend him this offseason.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.