Gregory Bull/Associated Press
The 2020 World Series is nearing its conclusion, which means the focus will soon shift to the MLB offseason.
The two biggest free-agent dominoes fell before anybody had a chance to make a play. Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $426.5 million extension with the Los Angeles Angels, and Mookie Betts got a 12-year, $365 million deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers after they acquired him from the Boston Red Sox.
Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and it could be another winter when teams are keeping their spending pretty tight. The Betts contract seemingly points to the fact that general managers are still willing to shell out big money for elite players.
The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Scott Lauber reported as much as it relates to two-time All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto:
“Even in a pandemic, though, a player’s value is determined by demand. Although the aging curve for catchers tends to be steep, Realmuto also sits atop the market, with outfielder George Springer and pitcher Trevor Bauer. Most industry observers believe they won’t feel the pinch as much as the free-agent middle class, and it wouldn’t hurt Realmuto if the big-spending Yankees are shopping for a catcher.“
Realmuto had a .266/.349/.491 slash line along with 11 home runs and 32 RBI in 47 games. Lauber posited the 29-year-old could be looking to earn more than $23 million annually, which would set a record for a catcher.
For Philadelphia Phillies fans, principal owner John Middleton offered a somewhat worrying comment when asked about Realmuto, per the Associated Press’ Rob Maaddi:
“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans because if you do, you know something that I don’t. I have no idea what we’re going to be allowed. And obviously that’s going to determine revenues and revenues determines what you can do and what you can’t do.“
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury reported in September the New York Yankees are expected to pursue Realmuto. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand noted that the Yankees signaled a willingness to explore Gary Sanchez trades during this season, so they might be amenable to a change at catcher.
This presents another New York team with an opportunity to make a major statement.
Steve Cohen is in the process of purchasing the New York Mets. They would be in the market for a catcher if they decline the $10 million club option for Wilson Ramos. Signing Realmuto would be a great way for Cohen to show his reign will be a welcome contrast to that of the Wilpons.
Generally, the Mets don’t win bidding wars against the Yankees. Realmuto will be an exception.
The Bronx Bombers could also use their free-agent budget on other targets.
The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million contract last year. One ace doesn’t make an entire starting rotation, though, and GM Brian Cashman might have to replace Masahiro Tanaka too.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer used Twitter to ramp up speculation about his fit in the Big Apple:
“We had a very good pitching staff this year. We’re going to lose some free agents. We’ve got to figure out a way to replace those innings and get quality innings. Offensively, we underperformed somewhat. There are some things we can work with to hopefully get our offense back on the right track and more consistent with what we can do. …
“Trevor is a free agent and he can do whatever he feels he can do. But we also have Anthony DeSclafani that’s one of the starters as well, whether it’s replace one of those guys with those guys again or replace those guys from outside, we have to figure out what we’re capable of doing when we pursue free agents through the offseason.“
The Athletic’s Dennis Lin downplayed the likelihood of the San Diego Padres entering the Bauer sweepstakes. Ownership reportedly doesn’t want to raise payroll too much, and the Padres should be able to count on Adrian Morejon, Luis Patino and MacKenzie Gore.
The most logical fit is another team Bauer referenced on Twitter:
The Angels haven’t had a true ace since the Reagan administration. Los Angeles went after Cole but couldn’t match the Yankees’ offer.
Even before the team fired general manager Billy Eppler, Dave Dombrowski was mentioned as a candidate to take over in that role. His specialty is spending big in free agency and flipping prospects for MLB-tested talent.
Bauer’s arrival would help the Angels address what is clearly the biggest hole on their roster.
Once the price to keep Cole climbed as high as it did, the Houston Astros seemed to remove themselves from consideration. They head into this offseason with George Springer, Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley all out of contract.
“There’s a chance none of them return, though the Astros are expected to make a run at re-signing Springer and/or Brantley,” MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart wrote.
Because of his age, Springer should be the top priority. He turned 31 on Sept. 19, while Brantley and Reddick are both 33. Springer is also the best player of the three. He slugged .540 during the regular season and had four home runs and 10 RBI in 13 playoff games.
As much as the Astros attempt to paint themselves as underdogs, the franchise carried the third-highest payroll into 2020 Opening Day after sitting ninth in 2018 and 2019, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
The front office probably has a limit to what it’s willing to offer Springer, who will draw a lot of interest as the best outfielder available. Still, Houston should be able to bring him back as it looks to add another World Series title.