Philadelphia Phillies’ fans rejoiced on Tuesday when it was announced that the Best Catcher in Baseball was re-signing with the team. J.T. Realmuto has agreed to a five-year, $115.5 million contract, setting a record for AAV for a catcher at $23.1 million.

One of the most excited might be Bryce Harper.

It was a move a long time coming, really since 2019, when the team traded top prospect Sixto Sanchez for him. What makes it better is the structure of the deal. Half of his $20 million salary for the 2021 season will be deferred, helping the team free up some cash in what is sure to be another tight financial year due to the ongoing pandemic.

But that hasn’t stopped some so-called fans from ruining the moment and bemoaning the fact that the Phillies still have a challenging year ahead of them. There’s no doubt that the National League East is primed to be one of the best, most competitive division in baseball. But the Phillies aren’t even in that conversation without Realmuto. Some argue the Phillies are the fourth or fifth best team in the division still. Even if that’s the case, I don’t think the gap between the first team and the fourth team is that big.

Remember, the Phillies had a lead in most of their games last year. The bullpen was abysmal and cost them a spot in the playoffs. If the pen was even a little better, the Phillies are probably in the playoffs last year. Despite the Archie Bradley signing, there’s still work to be done in the pen, and there are guys available.

Shortstop needs to be addressed, and all signs point to a reunion with Didi Gregorius. The team’s other options, Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons signed the same day as Realmuto, with the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins respectively.

In what will hopefully be a full season, guys will have some time to make adjustments this year. To make things more interesting, this is shaping up to be a make or break season for some players, like Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery. The negativity of the Gabe Kapler era is behind them. The weirdness of the pandemic shortened 2020 season is behind them. They have a competent GM in Sam Fuld and a stellar president with a winning track record in Dave Dombrowski. 

I truly believe things are looking up for the Phillies. The Realmuto deal is a sign the Phillies are ready to win now. After all, you don’t make that move if you’re expecting more years of a rebuild. Will it be tough? Absolutely. But this is the start of more good things to come.

Photo: Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports
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