The Miami Marlins were one of last offseason's most important actors, trading away multiple MVP-caliber talents in their desire to rebuild and save money. The Marlins aren't expected to be as busy this winter, but they do have one top talent whose name continues to populate rumors: catcher J.T. Realmuto, who posted a 131 OPS+ in 2018 and has two years of team control left.
Though the Marlins have expressed the desire to keep Realmuto in town with an extension, all indications are those talks went south about as quickly as anticipated. The smart money, then, is on Realmuto landing on another team before spring rolls around. What team might that be? To answer, let's recap some of the latest rumors and rumblings surrounding Realmuto.
Yankees willing to swap Sanchez?
New York is neither the capital nor the center of the universe in the real world. But in baseball terms, a talented player isn't truly available until he's linked to the Yankees in a rumor. Hence Realmuto is being tied to the Yankees by FanCred's Jon Heyman, who hinted that the Yankees might be willing to trade Gary Sanchez for him if the opportunity arises:
The issue with the Yankees' talks apparently is that they still hold Gary Sanchez in high enough regard that they have resisted offering other top pieces in a package with Sanchez. The Marlins, who are run by ex-Yankee types (Derek Jeter, Gary Denbo) seem to like Sanchez as well but are hoping for a major package for Realmuto.
The implication is a little surprising. Even with a rough 2018, Sanchez has outhit Realmuto for their careers. Sanchez also two additional seasons of team control remaining, which matters -- especially for a team that has one massive contract on the books, in Giancarlo Stanton's, and is looking to add more this winter. Presumably the Yankees are tiring of Sanchez's defensive woes, but it's not as though Realmuto is regarded as a top-flight defender, either.
Marlins have big ask from Braves
The Braves have already addressed their catching situation this offseason, adding Brian McCann to pair with Tyler Flowers. Alex Anthopoulos would seemingly be open to still adding Realmuto and figuring out what to do with the logjam later (presumably dealing Flowers), but a deal doesn't seem likely at this point given the Marlins wanted second baseman Ozzie Albies in return.
Here's what Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported:
The Braves' signing of McCann to a one-year, $2 million free-agent contract would not necessarily preclude them from engaging on Realmuto if the Marlins lowered their ask, according to sources – Realmuto is too good a player to simply back away from. But the Marlins asked for second baseman Ozzie Albies plus others, sources said, leading the Braves to believe the Fish weren't all that interested in trading him to a division opponent.
Albies was worth nearly four wins above replacement himself, per Baseball Reference. He won't hit the open market until winter 2023. You can understand why the Braves aren't jumping to make that trade, no matter how desirable they consider Realmuto.
Astros could part with Tucker
Comparatively, the Astros seem well-positioned to make a trade for Realmuto. We write that because: 1. They need to replace McCann and free agent Martin Maldonado and 2. They seem willing to move one of the top hitting prospects in baseball, outfielder Kyle Tucker. From Heyman:
The Astros are believed willing to include Kyle Tucker, who is the type of lefthanded hitter the Marlins like, but probably not top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley.
Tucker struggled in a 28-game cameo, hitting .141/.236/.203 with zero home runs in 64 at-bats. At the same time, he'll turn 22 in January and has a history of being projected as a quality big-league outfielder. Houston's willingness to trade Tucker for Realmuto likely says a lot more about their opinion of the latter than of the former.
Heyman also added the Mets, Giants and Dodgers to the list of potential suitors. Of those teams, the Dodgers would seem the most likely -- they have the prospect war chest to deal from; the money to keep him long-term; and the need, given Yasmani Grandal is a free agent.