by Chuck Hixson
The Phillies acquired the best catcher in baseball today from the Miami Marlins today. J.T. Realmuto will join the Phillies in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro, top prospect Sixto Sanchez, left-handed pitching prospect Will Stewart and international slot money.
Realmuto, who turns 28 next month, is stellar both offensively and defensively and marks an immediate and large upgrade behind the plate. The Phillies had pursued Realmuto during the Winter Meetings, but their interest had appeared to have waned during their pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Just as news came last week that the Marlins and Reds were nearing a deal to send Realmuto to Cincinnati, the Phillies appeared to be back in the hunt. It was assumed that Alfaro would have to be part of the deal and in recent days came news that the Marlins insisted on including top prospect Sanchez. When the Phillies agreed to that, the two teams immediately moved close to a deal, which was made official this afternoon.
The Marlins drafted Realmuto in the third round of the 2010 Draft and he made his MLB debut in June, 2014 when he went 2-for-4 against Tampa Bay, driving in three runs. Last summer, Realmuto was picked to play in his first All-Star Game and was also the recipient of his first Silver Slugger Award, given to the best offensive player at each position. In 540 major league games, Realmuto has amassed a line of 59-243-.279/.327/.442, with career-high marks in home runs (21) and RBI (74) in 2018.
Defensively, Realmuto has thrown out 33-percent of all runners attempting to steal against him, well above the average of 28-percent by catchers over that same time period. Last season, he threw out a career-high 38-percent of basestealers. Realmuto has also played 22 major league games at first base and has not made an error in 165 chances.
The 20-year old Sanchez was ranked as the Phillies top overall prospect for the second year in a row by Philly Baseball Insider. He has a 2.48 ERA in four minor league seasons, including a season in the Dominican Summer League. This past season, Sanchez made just eight starts after suffering through injuries. He was also a late scratch to pitch in the Arizona Fall League because of soreness in his collarbone. The Phillies were confident that he would be 100-percent for spring training.
Alfaro will take over as the Marlins everyday catcher. The 25-year old has a strong arm, but needs work on his mechanics, which held him to a 27-percent rate of throwing out basestealers. Alfaro has played 143 games in the majors with a line of 15-51-.270/.327/.407 with the Phillies. He had career-highs in home runs (10) and RBI last season (37)
Stewart, 21, was a 20th round pick of the Phillies in 2015 and pitched at Low-A Lakewood this past season where he went 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts with the BlueClaws. In his minor league career, the lefty was 15-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 40 starts and 16 relief appearances. All of his relief appearances came in his first two seasons of minor league ball. Philly Baseball News ranked Stewart as the 28th best prospect in the Phillies organization coming into the 2019 season.
The Marlins had been asking for Alec Bohm, who the Phillies selected in the first round of last year’s draft, but the Phillies refused to include him in the package. The Marlins have stockpiled prospects in deals that have sent players such as Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
In addition to the Reds, Phillies division rivals the Mets and Braves, along with the Dodgers and Padres, were all pursuing Realmuto at various points over the offseason.