The San Diego Padres are a team on the rise, but would the addition of J.T. Realmuto help take the Friars to a whole new level?
I know, Austin Hedges is supposed to be the future of the team. However, he is currently shelved with an elbow injury and his swing still looks long and unproductive. There are valid concerns that he will never be able to hit major league pitching consistently. You get a sense that even the front office is beginning to worry.
Having Hedges’ defensive prowess behind the dish is tempting no matter what he produces with the bat, but with a lineup constructed of young players, it can be downright frustrating watching him give away at-bats. The Padres need stability on offense as well as defense when it is all said and done. Especially if they do plan on being a competitive team.
J.T. Realmuto is the last player of any current value from the Marlins’ tear-down. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon, and Christian Yelich were all dealt in the winter as the Marlins cut payroll dramatically. Realmuto is only making $2.9 million this season, so he was not seen as a priority to be moved.
Times might have changed, as there are rumblings that Realmuto could be made available relatively soon by Miami. Currently he is hitting .322 with a .389 on base percentage. His five homers and 11 RBI have translated to a 1.2 WAR so far this year. He has also put up a .928 OPS. The backstop is a great offensive threat in the middle of a lineup from the right-handed batter’s box, and the 27-year-old could get even better with more experience.
The offensive numbers from Realmuto show a nice improvement each year since 2015, when he first received consistent playing time for the Marlins. He put up a .259/.290/.406 batting line with 10 homers and 47 RBI (.696 OPS) that first season, where he was widely regarded as a defensive catcher. The next year, he put up a .303/.343/.428 batting line with 11 home runs and 48 RBI (.771 OPS), showing offensive ability. Last season, his batting numbers improved to a .278/.332./451 slash line with 17 homers and 65 RBI (.783 OPS), as he improved with his approach at the plate. Realmuto can really swing the bat.
The 6-foot-1, former 3rd round pick in 2010 is far more than just a bat though. Pitchers rave about his game-calling skills and his ability to communicate. Sound familiar? I’m not saying he is Austin Hedges, but he does have an ability to catch and throw. He was regarded as a defensive-first catcher when he entered the league and put up a 1.4 defensive WAR in 2015. In fact, Realmuto threw out 32% and 35% of would-be base stealers the past two seasons. The major league average is 27%. In 2018, he has gunned down 42% base runners, which is very impressive.
Realmuto is a stud. He would easily improve the Padres, but what would be the cost, and do the Padres really need to upgrade at catcher?
A Proposed Offer
The San Diego Padres surely have the resources to get a deal done. The farm system is loaded with talent and the Padres even have major league-ready players who could be moved in the right situation. Carlos Asuaje, Cory Spangenberg, Hunter Renfroe, and Travis Jankowski could all be attained.
The question is do the Marlins want players to compete now for playing time, or do they want prospects to build around.
Should Austin Hedges, himself, be in a proposed offer to the Marlins for Realmuto? With the Padres’ luck as it has been historically, Hedges would go on to a Hall-of-Fame career after he was deal to Miami. For that reason, most fans would rather just let their prospects turn to mush than to deal an uncertainty.
The Padres have various prospects and major league-ready players that could entice the Marlins. The real question is if the team values Realmuto and if they are prepared to pay the hefty asking price.
Austin Hedges is a fan favorite, and at 25, still young enough to figure out his offensive issues. That is the belief.
The asking price for Realmuto will be high. Especially when contending teams start to desire catching upgrades for their playoff run. In the end, the Padres would probably be wiser to spend resources (traded players) on more pressing issues. The pitching staff always needs upgrading, and then there is the issue at shortstop that needs to be addressed beyond the 2018 season.
Austin Hedges is the Padres’ catcher of the future. They are invested in him, and at this point it would be foolish to change gears in that regard. Austin Allen and Luis Campusano are performing well in the minors and should be up eventually as well. The Padres have options internally if Hedges doesn’t work out in the long run. Realmuto is tempting, but at this point, the Padres need to stay the course and keep on developing the young players.