Sources: Phillies continue to improve roster by trading for J.T. Realmuto

This is what it looks like when a team thinks big and thinks now, and J.T. Realmuto probably will remember that big and now sometimes doesn’t mean forever, but it’s better than plenty of the alternatives.

Left behind a year ago when his Miami Marlins shipped out a good portion of a talented if thin roster, when small and later became the new standard, Realmuto endured what most saw coming – a last-place finish and cratering attendance, but a new paint job. The Marlins may one day rise up in Derek Jeter’s image. In the meantime, they remain the Marlins, usually on their way to one thing or another and hardly ever getting there, and no longer Realmuto’s problem.

On Thursday, according to sources, Realmuto was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, who know something about transitioning into or out of whatever ails them, but who for the moment are relevant again after seven dark Octobers out of the National League East. The Phillies already had acquired shortstop Jean Segura, reliever David Robertson and outfielder Andrew McCutchen and were engaged with free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

An entity that had fallen into the wispy realm of tear-down, build-up, the Phillies have a fresh and lively saunter, one that now counts with it Realmuto, one of the better offensive catchers in the game.

33 PHOTOS
MLB players who have switched teams over the 2018-19 offseason
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MLB players who have switched teams over the 2018-19 offseason

INF Manny Machado

Left the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency to sign with the San Diego Padres

(Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

OF Bryce Harper

Left the Washington Nationals in free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

OF Yasiel Puig

Traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds

(Photo by Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

2B DJ LeMahieu

Left the Colorado Rockies in free agency to sign with the New York Yankees

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

OF Matt Kemp

Traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

RHP Joe Kelly

Left the Boston Red Sox in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

C Yasmani Grandal

Left the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

2B Robinson Cano

Traded to the New York Mets from the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

RHP Edwin Diaz

Traded to the New York Mets from the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

RHP Jeurys Familia

Left the Oakland Athletics in free agency to sign with the New York Mets

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

RF Andrew McCutchen

Left the New York Yankees in free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

INF Jed Lowrie

Left the Oakland A's in free agency to sign with the New York Mets

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

RHP Ivan Nova

Traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Chicago White Sox

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

LHP Patrick Corbin

Left the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals

(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

1B Paul Goldschmidt

Traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St. Louis Cardinals

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

SS Jean Segura

Traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Philadelphia Phillies

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion

Traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

1B Justin Bour

Left the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

1B Yonder Alonso

Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago White Sox

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

OF Michael Brantley

Left the Cleveland Indians in free agency to sign with the Houston Astros

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

RHP Matt Harvey

Left the Cincinnati Reds in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

RHP Anibal Sanchez

Left the Atlanta Braves in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

DH Nelson Cruz

Left the Seattle Mariners in free agency to sign with the Minnesota Twins

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

RHP Kendall Graveman

Left the Oakland A's in free agency to sign with the Chicago Cubs

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

RHP Charlie Morton

Left the Houston Astros in free agency to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Outfielder Domingo Santana

Traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Infielder Daniel Murphy

Left the Chicago Cubs in free agency to sign with the Colorado Rockies

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

RHP Joakim Soria

Left the Milwaukee Brewers in free agency to sign with the Oakland A's

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

RHP Andrew Miller

Left the Cleveland Indians in free agency to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

2B Jurickson Profar

Traded by the Texas Rangers to the Oakland A's

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

RHP Trevor Cahill

Left the Oakland A's in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels

(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2B Brian Dozier

Left the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

RHP Shelby Miller

Left the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency to sign with the Texas Rangers

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The cost for Realmuto, 27 and with two years of contractual control, was not painless.

Angling toward the future, the Marlins received from the Phillies three players, along with an international bonus slot: catcher Jorge Alfaro, right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez and left-hander Will Stewart. Alfaro, the Phillies’ regular catcher last season, batted .262 with 10 home runs in 108 games in 2018. Alfaro, 25, will be arbitration eligible after the 2020 season. Sanchez was regarded as the Phillies’ top prospect. The 20-year-old Dominican was limited to 46 ⅔ innings last season, primarily because of a sore elbow. His medical report was considered a pivotal part of the deal. Stewart is a 21-year-old left-hander with a 2.06 ERA in A-ball last season.

Then, so too was the cost significant for Segura (along with James Pazos and Juan Nicasio), who was acquired for J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana. Though to stop there in the NL East would have been a half measure. So, yes, they raid the Marlins, the only team in the NL East that is raid-able, but more important they add a solid and hungry presence in Realmuto, and in him a capable defensive catcher and a bat that can hit near the top of the order or in the middle of it.

Phillies catchers — primarily Alfaro — were better than league average in many offensive categories. Realmuto hit .277 with 21 home runs and a .340 on-base percentage. He was an All Star. He was better than the best of the free-agent catchers – Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal, Brian McCann, Kurt Suzuki. He was better than the other big-name catcher traded (to the Nationals) – Yan Gomes.

These are the new again Phillies. Rather than continue the slog that is an organizational overhaul, that depends entirely on clever drafts and attentive development, that wore a second-half lull last season, they reached for something like competence. They pay, some will say overpay, for a top-of-the-line catcher.

Just a year ago, when the Marlins were jettisoning Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon, Realmuto was left to man the rebuild. His agent requested a trade. The Marlins declined. The Marlins offered Realmuto a contract extension. Realmuto declined.

By the time Realmuto reaches free agency, after the 2020 season, the Marlins are likely to be closer to where they are today than to Jeter’s hopes for them. The reasonable choice, then, was to move Realmuto and to keep pointing toward big and now, wherever and whenever that may be. It’s not something Marlins fans will love. But, it is something they’re probably getting used to.

Realmuto likely had it figured out from the get-go, that if you want to play big-league ball Miami is as good a place as any, and if you want to win big-league ballgames there’s a whole different world out there. Maybe that’s in Philadelphia. It seems better than the alternative.

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