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J.T. Realmuto On Arbitration, Contract Talks With Phillies

Phillies backstop J.T. Realmuto is pursuing a significant raise in his final season of arbitration eligibility. But the wage dispute is a pragmatic one, the star explained to reporters including Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

There’s a sizable spread between what Realmuto is seeking and what the Philadelphia organization is defending, raising the possibility of a relatively high-stakes hearing of the sort that can lead to some emotional moments. Whether or not there’s any mud-slinging before the arbitration panel, the backstop suggests that hurt feelings won’t be the cause or the result.

“I have a pretty good understanding of the process,” he says, “and I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me at all. It’s more the system. There’s no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto explains that he feels the Phils were generally fair in negotiations to this point. The Phillies filed at $10MM, coming in just shy of the $10.3MM projected by the computer model of MLBTR & arbitration guru Matt Swartz, so the club obviously was at least within reasonable bounds with its numbers. But Realmuto sees an argument for greater earnings — not only for himself, but also future backstops.

“Historically, catchers haven’t been treated very well in the arbitration process,” Realmuto opines. “So we feel like this is an opportunity for us to advance that for future catchers.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Realmuto and his reps go about trying to nudge the system in the player’s favor. Certainly, the rise in measurable catching statistics — Realmuto grades as one of the game’s top defensive backstops — creates some new potential evidence to work with. That the Phillies organization has heaped public praise upon Realmuto surely doesn’t hurt.

So, what does this all mean for a possible extension? Bad blood evidently won’t scuttle a deal. But a Realpolitik Realmuto will presumably also be a hard bargainer when it comes time to value his future.

“Anybody who knows much about the arbitration process knows that it’s business,” says Realmuto. “It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not any hard feelings there. So, I feel like we’re in the same place we were two or three months ago with the contract extension.”

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