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J.T. Realmuto says Phillies' contract negotiations haven't 'gone anywhere' since March

Matt Breen, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Baseball

"It definitely concerns me," Realmuto said about how the market could be affected by the pandemic. "Not necessarily for myself, but it does concern me for the free-agency class as a whole. I mentioned a few months back that the top guys usually find a way to get their dollars. Teams are going to want them. Maybe it's not 20 teams that are in on you; now there'll be five to 10. I just think that a lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and actually go for it instead of backing off. As half the league will probably be trying to cut revenue and save some money and the other ones will look at it as an advantage to maybe go forward and press forward. I think that it could affect free agency as a whole, but for myself, I'm not really too worried about it."

Realmuto started his videoconference with reporters by asking whether "we can keep the questions away from the contract situation." The catcher, speaking to reporters for the first time since March, did not want to talk about his negotiations -- partly because not much has changed since then.

If Realmuto wants to stay mum, Bryce Harper seems happy to talk for him. Harper wore a Realmuto shirt during the first days of camp, seeming to send a message to the front office on Realmuto's behalf despite saying he was just wearing the shirt because it was comfortable.

On Wednesday, Harper shouted "sign him" after Realmuto homered in an intrasquad game. Realmuto already has an agent, but maybe he's looking for a spokesman.

"I hope he owns a team one day, honestly. I might be able to catch until I'm 60 if he owns a team," Realmuto said. "I know it's all in good fun. Obviously I appreciate the support from him, and the respect is mutual there. Yeah, he has a little fun with it, so I don't mind it too much."

Realmuto said the slow pace of negotiations has not frustrated him. He said he loves the Phillies, who he said have been great to his family since he arrived. From top to bottom, "they're just good people, and they care about baseball, and that's really important to me."

Despite the lack of a deal, there does not appear to be a rift between the Phillies and Realmuto. And Joe Girardi supports that.

"The one thing that I don't have the luxury of having is what J.T. was like last year and the year before. I was not around J.T. But everything that I've seen from J.T. from Day 1 of spring training, he's the same person every day. Happy to be here" the Phillies manager said. "Wants to just go out and play and help the team win. When he came back from his arbitration case, his personality hadn't changed. He had a smile on his face when he walked through the clubhouse door. So, I haven't seen anything different this year. But I don't have anything to compare it to. But he's a pretty happy-go-lucky, love-to-play, want-to-be-on-the-field kind of guy. I would hate to see what he was like if this was bothering him. Goodness gracious, he'd have the biggest smile we'd ever see on an everyday basis."

 

Realmuto was on track last season to play in 94% of the team's games before a minor knee injury ended his season after the Phillies were eliminated from postseason contention. There's no reason, he can't start every game this season, he said, estimating he could catch between 50 or 55 games while playing the rest of the 60 games at first base or as the designated hitter.

Girardi, like Gabe Kapler did last season, will find it a challenge to give Realmuto a night off. The catcher will try to wedge his way into the lineup whenever the manager tries to give him a rest.

It should be an eventful season as the Phillies play 60 games in 66 days in a postseason sprint that could be the final chapter of Realmuto's time in Philadelphia. But for Realmuto, the next three months could be even more eventful, if negotiations resume. For now, he'd rather not talk about it.

"I understand the business of baseball," Realmuto said. "Like I said, I'm here to play baseball and focus on this team winning and getting to the playoffs."

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