CLEVELAND — When J.T. Realmuto spoke last season with his former Marlins teammate Christian Yelich, he could tell how much Yelich was enjoying his time away from Miami. Yelich was playing his MVP season in a pennant race with the Brewers while Realmuto was stuck with the last-place and anonymous Marlins.
“How much fun he was having, how much different he said it was, definitely inspired me and made me want to be a part of something like that,” Realmuto said. “That’s why I was so excited to get to Philly and be a part of what they had there.”
For the first time in his career, Realmuto will play relevant baseball after the All-Star break when the Phillies begin the second half on Friday in position for one of the National League’s two wild cards. He has enjoyed his time in Philadelphia, and the Phillies have enjoyed Realmuto, who was their lone representative at Tuesday night’s All Star Game. Realmuto, who can be a free agent after the 2020 season, is interested in signing a contract extension to stay in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future.
“I’m definitely not opposed,” Realmuto said. “Everything I’ve experienced in Philadelphia has been awesome, so I wouldn’t be opposed to spending the rest of my career there.”
After acquiring Realmuto in February from Miami, general manager Matt Klentak was asked about a possible contract extension and said he thought it was a good idea to “date the person before you ask to marry them.”
The first six months of the relationship have been good enough for both parties to envision a long-term pact. The Phillies have enjoyed Realmuto’s production -- both offensively and defensively -- and leadership. Realmuto has enjoyed being able to feel what Yelich was talking about.
The Phillies did not part with pitcher Sixto Sanchez -- regarded as their top prospect -- for just two years of Realmuto. An extension will likely be one of the team’s offseason priorities, as it would be a surprise for them to have Realmuto enter next season in the final year of his contract. Realmuto, 28, will be 30 years old if he reaches free agency. Yadier Molina was 34 in 2017 when he signed a three-year, $60 million extension with St. Louis. His $20 million average annual value makes him baseball’s highest-paid catcher, just ahead of Buster Posey’s eight-year, $159 million deal with San Francisco, and gives Realmuto a bar to clear.
“The timing doesn’t really matter for me. I just show up and play baseball every day,” Realmuto said. “If an extension comes, it comes, whether it be tomorrow or in the off-season or next July, the timing doesn’t matter too much.”
Jake Arrieta will undergo an MRI this week to determine if he will be able to continue to pitch with a bone spur in his right elbow. Arrieta has a 6.63 ERA in his last seven starts and could elect to have surgery, but that would leave the Phillies with a void to fill in a starting rotation that already seems to have just four pitchers.