Over the past few seasons, J.T. Realmuto has been one of the most talked about trade chips as an elite catcher on a rebuilding team. Unfortunately, the Miami Marlins’ “unrealistic asking prices” scared some of the more notable suitors such as the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves away.
On Thursday, however, the saga came to a close as the Philadelphia Phillies pulled the trigger to send top prospect Sixto Sanchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro, lefty Will Stewart and $250k of international bonus pool money to Miami for the All-Star catcher.
In Realmuto, the Phillies are acquiring a star catcher who brings with him the ability to hit for a very solid average while also offering strong power and a decent glove. He’s coming off of a .277/.340/.484 season and his BABIP numbers suggest that this level of production is sustainable. The Phillies will control the nearly 28-year-old catcher through the 2020 season via arbitration including a very reasonable $5.9 million salary for the 2019 season. Another added bonus to acquiring Realmuto is that he’s familiar with the National League East, especially the Marlins’ pitchers who he will now bat against frequently.
Furthermore, the move to Citizens Bank Park and the fact that he is part of a star studded line-up should do wonders for his power. In Miami, Realmuto was “the guy” who pitchers needed to attack, but Philadelphia includes some very promising young hitters including Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera.In a perfect win-win deal, the @Phillies acquired J.T. Realmuto from the @Marlins in exchange for Jorge Alfaro and pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart. @OrsattiJoe has more.Click To Tweet
The biggest name in the return is obviously the young righty Sixto Sanchez, who is a consensus top-100 prospect, ranking as highly as 27th by MLB.com. Sanchez has obvious talent and the upside of the ace of a staff. We’re talking about a guy with the ability to control a triple-digit fastball exceptionally well with a pair of above average secondaries in his curve and change-up. While his major-league ETA is 2020, I have my doubts based on durability concerns.
He missed the vast majority of the 2018 season to injury and will probably begin the season at the High-A level. The Marlins would be wise to proceed with caution, as a healthy Sixto Sanchez could be a Cy Young candidate for years to come, but “healthy” is the key word. It’s never a good sign to see a 20-year-old pitcher who’s generously listed at 6″ struggle with injuries so early in his career. Hopefully for the Marlins, he can prove that they are behind him.
Alfaro was acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade of July 2015. While he’s no longer considered to be a prospect, there’s a lot of promise in his game. It seems likely that he serves as the Marlins’ starter right out of the gate. The most important tool here is an elite arm that can make it nearly impossible to run on him as he gains more experience. While there are obvious concerns including a poor glove behind the plate and plate discipline issues, he could very well develop into an above average power threat who can hit for a reasonable average (.260-ish).
The lesser known name in the deal, Will Stewart, is a major sleeper. The 21-year-old southpaw was a day three selection by the Phillies in 2015. While he was largely mediocre over his first three seasons, he really came into his own last season in the South Atlantic League, where he posted a 2.06 ERA with a 3.09 FIP over 113.2 innings pitched. He sports elite control and the ability to induce a significant amount of ground balls. He typically sits in the low-90’s and is known to be more of a pitch to contact pitcher. This could pose some issues for him as he reaches the upper minor leagues, but regardless, I consider his ceiling to be that of a Mark Buehrle type innings eater with the floor of a very solid LOOGY to middle reliever.
I think this move is the definition of a win-win blockbuster. As it stands, the Phillies have so much pitching depth that they don’t have space for all of their guys, with the Phillies rotation including Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta as well as a collection of very promising young arms such as Vince Velazquez, Zac Eflin, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff and Enyel De Los Santos with top prospects Adonis Medina, JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez remaining in the pipeline. Furthermore, while Alfaro had potential, Realmuto is a major league catcher who brings with him more stability in 2019 than Alfaro did.
With this deal, they were trading from a position that they had depth in to fill a need on the major league roster. Yes, the players who they gave up were very promising, but sometimes you have to give a little to get a little. Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that Realmuto seems likely to be a qualifying offer candidate if he departs in free agency after the 2020 season.
Meanwhile, the Marlins were able to get an elite prospect and more for one of their top trade chips. While they aren’t finished products by any means, and bring with them a considerable amount of risk, the upside if through the roof. For a team that is still in the relatively early stages of a rebuild, this was a fantastic move.