We have arrived at an interesting place in J.T. Realmuto’s free-agency journey. It is clear that the Phillies, the team that let him hit the open market, want him back. It’s also reasonable to assume that Philadelphia is on the shrinking list of places where the two-time All-Star catcher wants to play in 2021.

Beyond that, however, there is no guarantee he will re-sign with the Phillies and little reason to believe that either side is in a hurry to get a deal done.

The first real developments in the slow-moving story took place in just the last few weeks with the revelation that new team president David Dombrowski visited Realmuto in Norman, Okla., just before Christmas, which was followed by the news late last week that the Phillies have offered him a five-year deal worth slightly more than $100 million.

That obviously is life-changing money even for a man who has already made nearly $20 million in his career. But you have to think it’s also well short of what Realmuto and his agent Jeff Berry had in mind when this process started. A year ago at this time, one of the potential contract comparisons being made was to Joe Mauer, the former Minnesota Twins star who became the highest-paid catcher in baseball history 11 years ago when he signed an eight-year deal worth $184 million.

That’s an average annual value of $23 million. Baseball players and agents like to keep salaries moving northward, and the fact that no catcher has eclipsed that mark in more than a decade could be disturbing to Realmuto, Berry, and the players union.

It’s rare that the best player at any position hits the free-agent market, and it has not happened at catcher in this century. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Realmuto, who turns 30 in March, would be an upgrade for all 30 major-league teams. It’s also not an exaggeration to suggest that the Phillies need him more than he needs them, provided the team intends on making a playoff run in 2021. Dombrowski, for the record, made it clear Monday that the Phillies do believe they can be a contender.

“There’s just too many good players on the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team to be thinking about transitioning,” Dombrowski said Monday during a videoconference call with the media. “We’re thinking about winning. That’s what we’re going to try to do. I think we have some work ahead of us this wintertime before we get to that point.”

The new team president also admitted that Plans B, C, and D at catcher really do not compare favorably to the plan where the Phillies bring back Realmuto.

“We have [the plans] all lined up,” Dombrowski said. “But I think there are very few catchers that supply behind the plate what J.T. does. I wouldn’t say that anybody is in that category. But we’ve discussed … alternatives. We hope that we don’t have to go to those. But I think one thing you learn throughout your career … is that you need to be flexible and adjust from one thing to another depending on what takes place.”

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The market has not moved exactly the way Realmuto and his agent had hoped. The New York Mets have been out on Realmuto since signing free-agent catcher James McCann in mid-December and the Yankees dropped out when they re-signed DJ LeMahieu last week. The Los Angeles Angels filled their catching need by signing Kurt Suzuki, who had spent the last two seasons in Washington.

Perhaps teams are showing a reluctance to sign Realmuto to a long-term deal because of his age. The typical catcher hits a downward trajectory when he reaches the age of 30. However, Realmuto, who turns 30 in March, is a freakish athlete who could have value beyond the catching position in future years.

Consider this: According to Statcast, Realmuto’s sprint speed is equal to Springer’s even though his fellow top-tier free agent is a center fielder. Realmuto is the only catcher among the top 100 in sprint speed.

While his offensive numbers might not match up with the best power-hitting first basemen, they would look quite good at second base if he needed to move to that position in a few years. It’s not unreasonable to think that a guy who was once a stud option quarterback could transition to second base.

Here’s the thing: Realmuto only needs one other team besides the Phillies to show interest to keep the idea that he could sign elsewhere for the same or more than his former team is offering.

At the same price, would the Washington Nationals be more appealing than the Phillies to Realmuto? They are only a year removed from winning a World Series, they still have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, and Realmuto’s bat would be in the middle of an order that also includes Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber. The Toronto Blue Jays could also be an intriguing suitor should they miss out on their pursuit of Springer.

You have to believe that Realmuto’s camp is going to let that scenario play out before accepting the current offer on the table from the Phillies.

» READ MORE: The Phillies will begin spring training in five weeks. Will J.T. Realmuto be there?

As for the Phillies, the best free-agent options beyond Realmuto are future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina and former Phillies catcher Wilson Ramos. Molina is most interested in a two-year deal to return to St. Louis, and Ramos is not worth signing for more than one year, if at all.

The Phillies are well aware that their best option at catcher is J.T. Realmuto and, since that’s the case, here’s a compromise they should consider: Give him a five-year deal worth $110 million.

That deal would be $3 million more than Buster Posey will be paid over the final five years of his contract, which covers his age 30 through 34 seasons. Realmuto could then at least say he was the highest-paid active catcher and the Phillies could seriously consider themselves playoff contenders.