When I first suggested the Twins should trade for a catcher about 5 weeks ago, plenty of readers had one question on their mind: How much will it take to get J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins?
Apparently a lot.
Twins starter Jason Castro is done for the year following knee surgery, and he’s been replaced by the tandem of Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson. Castro wasn’t hitting much at the time his season was cut short, and combined Twins catchers have hit .185/.261/.291 this season. Catcher’s have a lower expectation offensively, but the Twins right now are testing the boundaries of those expectations.
The Twins apparently got some calls from teams looking to move catchers at the time the team learned Castro’s fate for the 2018 season.
Realmuto, meanwhile, ought to be the most coveted trade target among catchers. He’s hit .297 .355 .524 with 9 homers in 54 games for the Marlins this year. That same team had a big estate sale this winter and moved on from most of its good established players, so to some it was surprising to see the young catcher still in Miami when the season began. I think that spoke to his price tag (in terms of prospects). With 2 1/2 years of team control remaining before he can elect free agency, I wouldn’t expect that price to be much lower now, especially not the way he’s hitting.
The Twins are the worst-hitting team from the catcher’s position this season; the Nationals are the second-worst. So it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Nats in the market to trade for a catcher.
But unless their GM Mike Rizzo is posturing, it doesn’t sound like Washington will jump in on the deep end of the pool.
“We touched base in the winter and really haven’t circled back,” Rizzo told MLB Network Radio. “They’ve got a great player in Realmuto — they’re not going to sell him cheap. We know what the return has to be on Realmuto and we’re not willing to meet that price. So unless something changes there on their end, we’re going to go with [our internal options at catcher].”
And if the price is too high for the Nats to want to pay it, where exactly does that set the bar?
There were reports this winter about the Marlins asking for packages including top prospects Juan Soto or Victor Robles in Realmuto trade talks, just to give an idea of the starting point for conversations.
Realmuto is making $2.9 million this season on a 1-year deal. The real value is in having an offensive catcher who is among the best in baseball overall at the position. And also in having the right to pay that guy less than market-value for each of the next two seasons before he becomes a free agent.
So the Fish are right to ask for the moon for Realmuto. Should the Twins be willing to pay the price? Minnesota certainly has some prospect ammunition if the club wants to make a big move ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline. But that brings up the whole rabbit-hole question of whether this year’s roster — what’s left of it — is worth betting on, or if it makes more sense to retreat and load up for another shot next year.
Anyway, in the MLB Network Radio interview, Rizzo confirmed what we probably should have known about one of the best young catchers in baseball. If you want to trade for J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins are “not going to sell him cheap.”