As viable suitors emerge for free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto, there’s one team that should sign him but (probably?) won’t.
J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball. He also happens to be a free agent. The team he has spent the last couple seasons with, the Philadelphia Phillies, are a prominent suitor even after not getting a deal done with him previously. The New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays are also prominent rumored suitors.
But truly, a lot of teams could make a case to sign Realmuto. Whether it would be especially wise to make a long commitment to a catcher who will turn 30 in March is another conversation, but teams will willingly trade a productive 2-3 years for a year or two on the back end that may not look so good.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello has offered a GIF to point to a dark horse suitor for Realmuto.
The Detroit Tigers?
Would the Detroit Tigers really sign J.T. Realmuto?
The Tigers finished 23-35 in the abbreviated 2020 season, and they have not even had a .400 winning percentage since going 86-75 in 2016. Contention seems to be a year or two away, even with the hiring of former Astros manager A.J. Hinch after Ron Gardenhire called it quits in September.
It’s not that the Tigers couldn’t spend money, with a projected $53.95 million in payroll for next year right now (24th in baseball, via Spotrac). But a last-place team signing a veteran catcher to a contract that could be an albatross at the end feels like a bad allocation of resources.
It has been done before though. After going 43-119 in 2003, the Tigers signed a 32-year old Ivan Rodriguez to a four-year, $40 million deal. He would earn an All-Star nod in all four of his full seasons in Detroit, while adding three more Gold Gloves to his mantle. The Tigers won 95 games and made it to the World Series in 2006, so the move paid off all-around.
The Tigers could go back to the veteran catcher well this offseason, and make Realmuto the centerpiece of their current rebuild. But it takes two to tango. Based on the suitors he has, it’s unlikely Realmuto is even thinking about making the Motor City his new home.