Catcher J.T. Realmuto lost his arbitration case against the Philadelphia Phillies this week, and the consolation will be a salary of $10 million for his final season before free agency.
While that is a lot of money, and a record arbitration salary for a catcher, Realmuto felt he should have been compared to players who had similar production at other positions.
After an arbitrator selected the Phillies’ $10 million offer to Realmuto over his $12.4 million appeal, the 28-year-old slugger was critical of MLB’s outdated arbitration system and said the Phillies “took advantage of it.”
“It’s so outdated. There’s a separate catchers’ market,” Realmuto said, via Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s what the team’s main case was on, that you can’t go outside of the catchers’ market. But if you line my numbers up with position players, that’s where our figure comes into play.
“It’s never happened before where catchers go out of the catchers’ market. But it’s not in the rules that says you can’t. The team knows that they had a pretty strong case just for that, and they took advantage of it.”
Realmuto’s $10 million salary beats the previous high for a catcher, which was the $8.3 million Matt Wieters got from the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. However, Realmuto and his agent, Jeff Berry, argued that Realmuto deserved to be compensated based on his production at the plate. Realmuto, who hit .275 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs last season, has a career .278 average, 84 homers, and a .779 OPS in 685 games. Anthony Rendon was a .280 career hitter with a .812 OPS and 78 homers in 634 games when he avoided arbitration with a $12.3 salary from the Washington Nationals in 2018.
Realmuto felt that should have been his closest comp.
However, Rendon is a third baseman. For whatever reason, the arbitration system does not value catchers as highly, which is why Realmuto is frustrated. He insists he is more irritated with the system than the Phillies, but we’ve seen how ugly arbitration hearings between players and teams can get.
You have to wonder if the process will negatively impact Philly’s chances of re-signing Realmuto to a long-term deal next year.
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