Bryce Harper demands Phillies re-sign J.T. Realmuto as Mets loom

Bryce Harper is calling on Phillies brass to re-sign J.T. Realmuto.

Speaking with reporters following an ugly 5-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday that officially put an end to another disappointing Phillies season, Harper gave his two cents regarding pending free-agent catcher Realmuto.

“J.T. Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year — plain and simple,” Bryce Harper declared.

Harper has been pushing for the Phillies to re-sign Realmuto since spring training and throughout the summer. In the early days of summer camp, Harper sported a Realmuto T-shirt and shouted “Sign him!” after the 29-year-old catcher blasted a home run in an intrasquad game during camp at Citizens Bank Park.

And no one could forget when cameras caught Harper making a signing motion as he crossed home plate ahead of Realmuto after one of his early-season home runs.

Harper continued his campaign for Realmuto Sunday.

“He’s the best catcher in baseball,” Harper said. “He’s the best hitting catcher in baseball. Our guys love to throw to him if that’s [Zack] Wheeler, if that’s [Aaron] Nola, if that’s anybody.

“Anybody that’s the best at their position — hitting and fielding — needs to be signed and that is J.T. Realmuto. I don’t think that should even be a question. There’s going to be two teams or three teams in the NL East who are going to go after that guy and if that happens, I mean, that’s going to be tough to swallow for us.”

The Mets, whose wallets just got a little deeper with new owner Steven Cohen waiting for approval to take majority control, are expected to be one of those teams gunning for Realmuto.

The Phillies came out on top in a salary arbitration hearing with Realmuto in February, with the arbitration panel siding with Philadelphia and their $10 million offer. The organization was reportedly getting started on negotiations with Realmuto for a long-term extension that would keep him from hitting free agency this winter, but they were stalled when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

In June, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak mentioned that the “landscape” had changed as it related to the team’s plan to retain Realmuto. However, the organization is still expected to try to work out a deal with Realmuto, who is reportedly aiming to become the highest-paid catcher in MLB history.

In the shortened 2020 season, Realmuto posted a .266 batting average with 32 RBIs and 11 homers.

Philadelphia acquired Realmuto from the Miami Marlins in February 2019 in exchange for Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart and $250,000 in international bonus slot money. Realmuto earned his second All-Star appearance in 2019 after he slashed .275/.328/.493 in 538 at bats with career-highs in home runs (25), RBIs (83) and runs (92).

At the end of last season, Realmuto won his second career Silver Slugger award and his first Gold Glove Award.

With Sunday’s loss, the Phillies failed to qualify for the playoffs for the ninth straight year.

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