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The Philadelphia Phillies have retained arguably their most important player. The Phillies and catcher J.T. Realmuto have agreed to a five-year contract worth $115.5 million, CBS Sports HQ analyst Jim Bowden confirmed Tuesday. The deal is pending a physical and the team has not yet confirmed the signing.

Realmuto, 30 in March, is the game's best all-around catcher and he will be paid like it. The $115.5 million guarantee is the third-largest for a catcher in MLB history, behind Joe Mauer's $184 million contract and Buster Posey's $159 million contract. Realmuto's deal establishes a new average annual salary record for a catcher:

  1. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies: $23.1 million
  2. Joe Mauer, Twins: $23 million
  3. Yadier Molina, Cardinals: $20 million
  4. Buster Posey, Giants: $18.5 million
  5. Yasmani Grandal, Brewers and White Sox: $18.25 million

Philadelphia acquired Realmuto in a four-player trade with the NL East rival Marlins two years ago. Righty Sixto Sanchez was among those to go to Miami in the trade. In his two years as a Phillie, Realmuto authored .273/.333/.492 batting line with 36 home runs in 192 games. That offense plus his stellar defense helped him lead all catchers with 7.5 WAR from 2019-20.

The catcher aging curve is harsh and signing a soon-to-be 30-year-old catcher to a long-term deal is risky. Mauer and Posey were done as elite players at age 31, for example. That said, Realmuto is much more athletic than most catchers, and the Phillies are trying to get back to the postseason. Realmuto can help them do that. Being the best catcher in baseball makes him irreplaceable.

J.T. Realmuto
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Coming into the offseason the Mets stood out as an obvious suitor for Realmuto, but they instead signed James McCann to a four-year contract last month. Shockingly few contenders needed a starting contender this offseason and none of the teams that needed one could pay Realmuto more than the Phillies, who still have a good amount of spending room.

Re-signing Realmuto was always the top priority for the Phillies this winter. Now that that's done, they can pivot to adding an infielder (ideally a shortstop), adding a veteran back-end starter, and continuing to overhaul what was the worst bullpen in the big leagues last season.

Our R.J. Anderson ranked Realmuto the No. 2 available free agent this offseason, behind only George Springer. Realmuto returning to Philadelphia was always an obvious fit.