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Hot Stove Pre-Heat: Realmuto, Molina and Other Free Agent Catchers

J.T. Realmuto, James McCann and Yadier Molina are all testing the free agency waters. Which teams are looking to make a splash?

J.T. Realmuto by Ian D’andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA2.0

Hot Stove Pre-Heat: Realmuto, Molina and Other Free Agent Catchers

Estimated Reading Time: 10 Minutes

Every year the MLB season goes through its offseason, pretty much like every other sport. The NBA Offseason is about what Super Teams will be formed, the NFL offseason tends to swirl around the new blood entering the league. But Major League Baseball’s offseason takes a while to get going. One of my favorite baseball terms is “Hot Stove.” You’ll hear a lot of baseball fans talking about “Hot Stove Season” and how it’s starting to heat up.

The term “Hot Stove” comes from the idea of the “Hot Stove League,” the offseason gathering of fans around a hot stove during the winter, getting warm and talking baseball. It doesn’t get any more Americana than that, y’all. Just sitting around a hot stove in the dead of winter, talking baseball. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Well, this year we’re starting early. We’re preheating things early on so that when this stove gets hot, we’re already cooking. Today, let’s start by looking at the top Catchers on the Free Agent market.

Tyler Flowers – Free Agent

Flowers has spent the last few seasons as the consistent catcher for the Atlanta Braves. Flowers, who was originally drafted by the Braves in 2005, made his MLB debut for the White Sox after the Braves dealt him in a deal for Boone Logan and Javier Vasquez.

After spending two seasons without Brian McCann, opting for Evan Gattis and A.J. Pierzynski, the Braves signed Flowers to a modest contract in 2016 and have never looked back. Flowers is the perfect second piece to a catching duo, and the Braves might require his services again in 2021.

With Travis d’Arnaud coming off a big year, Atlanta should try to replicate their success behind the plate. Trust me, as a Mets fan, I have been through the ups and downs of d’Arnaud. The guy is better when he’s splitting catching duties.

Look for the Braves and Flowers to continue their time together. It’s worked out this far, what’s one more year?

Predicted Team: Atlanta Braves

Predicted Contract: 1-year, $3 Million Dollars.

Jeff Mathis – Free Agent

If you don’t love Jeff Mathis, you aren’t paying attention. The man is a catching machine, despite his inability to swing the bat. If you don’t believe me, here’s Foolish Baseball laying out the argument:

Good? Good. So where does he go? If I’m a general manager with a young rotation, I’m looking to sweep up Mathis if I can’t get another catcher on the market. That means Mathis could be heading to Seattle or even to the White Sox if they fail to re-sign James McCann. Hell, Mathis could even find himself on the Astros, backing up Martin Maldonado. There’s plenty of places Mathis could land, it just comes down to who sees the value first.

Predicted Team: Seattle Mariners.

Predicted Contract: 1-year, $2 Million Dollars.

James McCann – Free Agent

James McCann is in an interesting situation. In regards to being an offensive-forward catcher, he’s #2 behind Realmuto on the Free Agent market. So things will shift for him and possibly add to his evaluation if teams get desperate.

There’s also the mindset that, if McCann signs before Realmuto, it’ll signal who is in and out of the running for the former Phillies catcher. So it’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds, but where does McCann fit?

Two places immediately come to mind: Chicago and Philadelphia.

Chicago makes a ton of sense, in that Yasmani Grandal and McCann can share both the catching duties and potentially the DH duties. That is of course contingent on the White Sox declining Edwin Encarnacion‘s option, which I would do if I were in their position.

That’s kind of a great situation for McCann, who can have his cake and eat it too. Working with a young rotation, and already creating a solid relationship with Lucas Giolito, Chicago just makes sense.

However, should the Phillies fail to resign Realmuto, McCann could be playing in the city of Brotherly Love. Because the Phillies need to fill that void, and McCann’s a perfect fit. And with Philly’s reluctance to deal with Realmuto during the season, that could mean McCann is heading to the NL East.

Predicted Team: Philadelphia Phillies.

Predicted Contract: 2 years, $20 Million Dollars.

Wilson Ramos – $10M Option, with a $1.5MM Buyout

Why is Wilson Ramos on this list if he has a $10 Million dollar option? Because there’s no way the Mets don’t buy him out. Even if they do end up signing a top-tier free agent catcher, keeping Wilson Ramos as a backup with the price tag is outrageous. No way. Which means he’ll be hunting for a job.

Wilson Ramos still has some days behind the plate left in his career, and what better place to finish it out, than the place it started. The Washington Nationals are… rebuilding. After years of rough contracts, and even a World Series title, the Nationals seem to have some holes they need to fill. One of those was behind the plate, but they found Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes for the job.

Suzuki is a free agent this offseason, and at 37 years old, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to bring him back. However, Wilson Ramos could make a great catching tandem with Yan Gomes and help bring the Nationals back after a disastrous 2020.

Predicted Team: Washington Nationals

Predicted Contract: 2 years, $8 Million Dollars.

Yadier Molina – Free Agent

Yadier Molina has been the face of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise for almost two decades. The Cardinals catcher has won two World Series rings, nine Gold Gloves, and been selected to the All-Star Game nine times over his 16-year career. Now, as he turns 38 years old, the question is, what happens next?

The Cardinals have to sign him. Flat out. Is he seeing a decline in his numbers? Yes, but not enough to make him obsolete. Is he losing his edge? No, he’s still the heart and soul of this Cardinals team. What are the downsides of bringing him back? There are none. But seeing Yadier Molina call it a career with any other team would be a disgrace and that’s what this is about. This is a legacy contract offer. The Cardinals cannot let Yadi walk.

Predicted Team: St. Louis Cardinals.

Predicted Contract: 2 years, $15 Million Dollars.

J.T. Realmuto – Free Agent

Welcome to the main event, the real reason as to why you stumbled on this article. J.T. Realmuto is the top position player available this offseason, there’s no debate. And with such high acclaim comes a boatload of suitors, namely the Yankees, Nationals, Astros, Angels, Blue Jays, Reds, Cardinals, and Mets. And instead of breaking down where he could do, let’s go team by team, seeing how Realmuto would fit into each roster.

Yankees: J.T. Realmuto is an upgrade from Gary Sanchez both at the dish and behind it. Sanchez has long been criticized for his lackluster catching abilities, but it’s his inconsistent bat that seems to be causing more irritation lately. With Kyle Higashioka as their next best option behind the plate, the Yankees are looking to upgrade. Realmuto offers more consistency with his bat than either player but brings the catching ability of Higashioka. A win-win for New York.

Nationals: As mentioned previously when discussing Wilson Ramos, the Nationals more than likely won’t be resigning Kurt Suzuki. The Nationals also lost some firepower when Anthony Rendon left in the 2020 offseason for the Angels. Realmuto kills two birds with one contract: a solid catcher and an offensive bat. Makes sense, and you offer Realmuto the chance to catch three of the best pitchers in the National League.

Blue Jays: It would appear that Dan Jansen isn’t panning out the way the Blue Jays would have hoped, and they are now poised to bring in another catching option. The Blue Jays have a young core that seems primed to explode once they get a few more reps under their belts. Adding Realmuto to the young lineup and as battery mate to a stable of decent starters could be the key to AL East dominance.

Reds: The Reds have been rolling with Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali for the last three seasons, and they have been absolutely decent. The Barnhart/Casali tandem has been consistently average for the last few years, and the Reds haven’t been amazing these last few seasons either. But things in 2020 went great, so why not upgrade now? Seems to make sense.

But the two big names in the running for Realmuto’s services are the Phillies and the Mets.

Phillies: As the incomparable Ellen Adair put it, “that there is no one to replace J.T. Realmuto is indisputable.” And for a Phillies team that has gotten somehow worse in the few seasons since signing Bryce Harper, that’s becoming more and more true. The Phillies have to sign J.T. Realmuto, they simply have to.

And yet, they didn’t. For the entire 2020 season, the Phillies stood pat and didn’t offer a new contract to their All-Star catcher. Which is crazy. Robbie Ray got a contract from the Blue Jays after pitching in five games for them in 2020. But Realmuto doesn’t get anything? That’s a head-scratcher. And now, after he’s rejected your Qualifying Offer, you have to fight for space in the marketplace.

What a disaster for a team the desperately needs to sign Realmuto. Big Oof for all you Phanatics out there. You simply cannot fall that hard in 2020 only to turn around and wave goodbye to Realmuto. That’s insanity.

Mets: At the beginning of the offseason, I did not think there was any chance of the Mets signing Realmuto. How often have you heard of the Mets being in on signing a big-time free agent only to realize they were going to sign Jed Lowrie? Every year. It’s every year. Instead, we end up sending prospects away for contracts we can’t pay for.

And then Christmas came early in Queens when the Wilpon Era ended with the sale of the Mets to Steve Cohen. Why does this matter?

There are two big-ticket Free Agents that the Mets could benefit from and they are 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto. With the Mets having serious difficulty behind the plate, to the point where it was stunting the growth and progress of their insanely gifted rotation, Realmuto seems like a godsend. And with Steve Cohen looking to make a splash as the newest MLB owner, this could be the moment Mets fans have been waiting for.

Predicted Team: New York Mets.

Predicted Contract: 5 years, $125 Million Dollars.

Think we missed the boat? Skimmed over a key piece of the market? Let us know in the comments!

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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