JT Realmuto returns to Phillies on record-breaking deal: Here’s what the story says about blockbuster catcher deals

On Tuesday, wide receiver JT Realmuto agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on a five-year contract worth $ 115.5 million. In doing so, he made a special story for the post. Realmuto’s average annual value of $ 23.1 million is the highest in baseball history for a catcher’s contract.

Realmuto, who turns 30 in March, is also the third wide receiver to:

  1. Sign a contract worth at least nine digits (Joe Mauer and Buster Posey)
  2. Earn an average annual value north of $ 20 million (Mauer, again, and Yadier Molina).

The rarity of the blockbuster catcher contract is linked to the conviction that such transactions are dangerous; alongside the pitchers, the catchers appear to be removing slices from the cakes that shape their careers with each pitch. The data doesn’t support this observation, but teams have been selective about which catchers they reward. This behavior in itself deserves investigation; if Realmuto is deemed worthy, and it has been, then it belongs to a special class.

How did other members of his ilk age? how did their lucrative business turn out? and what does it all mean for Realmuto? Below, we’ve attempted to answer these questions by recapping the seven multi-year contracts awarded to backstops that had AAV of $ 15 million or more, according to Cot’s contracts. (We accept that $ 15 million is an arbitrary number, but it’s lovely, isn’t it?)

1. Joe Mauer, $ 23 million AAV, 2011-18

For reasons largely beyond Mauer’s control, his contract is a worst-case scenario in this particular area. Mauer was, of course, forced to first base by repeated head trauma. He always posted a 114 OPS + for the tuning, but this mark was not as noticeable in the cold corner as it would have been behind the dish. Baseball Prospectus’ calculation of wins over the replacement Baseball Prospectus (used in this article because it incorporates catcher coaching) suggests that he had about 13 wins during that time period – one for every 14 million players. dollars. It’s above the general baseline ($ 10 million) and worst on this list, however, it’s much better than the deal’s perception suggests.

2. Yadier Molina, 20 million AAV, 2018-20

This is the first of two appearances for Molina; As you might expect, since he came later in his career, this is the least valuable of the pair. Molina’s bat was in sharp decline over the past three years, and he averaged 93 OPS + in under 100 games per pop. His defense still allowed him to amass 5.5 WARPs, which earned him around $ 11 million per win. Depending on how much you value the soft defensive factors that Molina is credited with – play call, defensive positioning, etc. – that could under-sell it.

3. Buster Posey, $ 18.55 million AAV, 2013-21

If you want to get some technical info on that, Posey’s ‘real’ AAV is lower after he retired last season for family reasons. He’s had a tough 2019, but that’s okay. For the deal, he hits .298 / .367 / .441 (122 OPS +) while averaging nearly 140 games per season. He was worth 38 WARPs during that time, meaning the Giants paid less than $ 4 million per win. It doesn’t matter what happens in 2021; it’s a massive, massive win for the Giants, and about as good as here.

4. Yasmani Grandal, AAV $ 18.25 million, 2020-2023

As with Posey’s contract, Grandal’s is still in progress. The difference is that Grandal is closer to the head than to the tail. The first year went pretty well: he did a 113 OPS + and remained one of the best receivers in the league. Provided he can do it again, or twice more, the White Sox will have no regrets for this one.

5. Brian McCann, $ 17 million AAV, 2014-2018

McCann initially signed a five-year pact with the Yankees, although he spent the last two years of it with the Astros following the emergence of Gary Sanchez. He wasn’t as productive at home as he had been earlier in his career, but he was an average league hitter (or so) with solid target numbers. This combination saw him take 13 wins, or roughly $ 6.5 million per. Strong.

6. Russell Martin, $ 16.4 million AAV, 2015-19

As with McCann, Martin also completed his contract (signed with the Blue Jays) with another team (Dodgers). He too was unable to maintain his past glory, but he had a 96 OPS + for the duration of the deal. Martin’s high-quality framing allowed him to rack up 13 WARPs as well, for a ratio of around $ 6.3 million. Stronger.

7. Yadier Molina, 15 million AAV, 2013-17

Obviously, Molina’s first entry (chronologically) worked well enough that the Cardinals came back for a few seconds. He hit for a 104 OPS + over the past five years while averaging 133 games played. Stellar Defense Factor, and he’s racked up 19 WARPs. That’s less than $ 4 million per win, which makes this deal an absolute bargain.

To recap: Of the six deals that are either completed or entering their final season, two of them had a rate of $ per WARP exceeding the $ 10 million threshold. Four of them, meanwhile, were well below. It’s possible that WARP overestimates the receiver’s framing, but if you accept that it’s mostly accurate – or, at least, that it’s a step in the right direction – then you also have to accept that most large receiver handed over the last decade have been home runs.

The past doesn’t necessarily predict the future, and Realmuto is its own being regardless. But it should take comfort to Phillies fans that lately teams are right more often than not when they bet big on a safety net.

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