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Hector Neris: The other important Phillies arbitration case

There is currently some measure of concern and consternation among Phillies fans due to the contract situation involving catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Almost one year ago, the Phillies dealt away catcher Jorge Alfaro, top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, and another young pitching prospect, Will Stewart, to the Miami Marlins in order to obtain Realmuto.

It was a steep price to pay, but it put the best catcher in baseball into a Phillies uniform. Realmuto delivered a 2019 All-Star campaign in which he won both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

The Phillies inherited Realmuto’s contract situation, which called for him to become a free agent following the upcoming 2020 season. After paying the price they did, it was incumbent on general manager Matt Klentak to get a contract extension done with Realmuto, one  that would keep him with the team for years to come.

So far, that extension has not come to pass. The Phillies and Realmuto’s representatives instead exchanged salary figures for a one-year deal to be determined by the arbitration process in February.

Of course, the two sides could let that process play out, put a 2020 contract into place, and then still agree later on a long-term deal. They could also reach such a deal before the arbitration hearing ever takes place.

But one thing is certain. The Phillies must get a deal done with Realmuto. Two years, even two excellent years, will not be enough when considering that price paid. I have to believe a long-term deal will be in place well before the 2020 regular season opens.

Realmuto’s is not the only arbitration case looming for the Phillies, and it is not the only important one. The club also has a hearing scheduled with erstwhile closer Hector Neris.

While most Phillies fans would rightly not consider Neris at the same level of importance as Realmuto, the fact remains that the reliever is also a key piece to the club’s success moving forward.

Neris will turn 31 years of age in June. He has been a member of the Phillies bullpen for six seasons, and has been a key part of their relief mix for the last five of those years.

In 2019, Neris put up excellent overall numbers. Over 68 games he allowed just 45 hits in 67.2 innings pitched with an 89/24 K:BB ratio. The big right-hander had a 2.93 ERA, 1.020 WHIP, and recorded 28 saves.

During the course of his career with the Phillies, Neris has allowed 256 hits over 311.2 innings across 307 appearances with395 strikeouts and 67 saves. He has career 3.29 ERA and 1.161 WHIP marks with an 11.4/3.1 K/BB ratio per nine innings.

Phillies fans frequently have become frustrated with Neris over his occasional blowups, and those do exist. While 53 of Neris’ 68 appearances (78%) in the 2019 season resulted in scoreless outings, he also had three appearances in which he allowed three runs and another three in which he allowed a pair of runs to score.

The season prior, Neris had opened the year as the Phillies closer. While he had nine saves by the middle of May, Neris had also blown a number of opportunities as well. A pair of horrendous outings in June left him with a 6.90 ERA as that month ended, and resulted in a demotion to the minor leagues.

Neris regained his confidence that summer at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, striking out 31 over 19 appearances while allowing just nine hits across 18.2 innings.

When called back to the Phillies in mid-August, Neris was so dominant that he was named the National League Reliever of the Month after just a half-month of work. He allowed no runs and just three hits over nine innings with a 20/2 K:BB.

From the time of his recall on August 15 through the end of the 2018 regular season, Neris allowed 11 hits over 17.2 innings with a 2.04 ERA, a .172 batting average against, and a dominating 35/5 K:BB ratio.

The fact is that Neris is an extremely valuable, experienced relief pitcher in a bullpen that is desperate for just that type of arm.

Neris filed for a $5.2 million salary in 2020 after being paid $1.8 million a year ago. The team filed a figure of $4.25 million. No matter what happens, he will get a healthy raise this year, one that will set him and his family up for life.

With one more year of arbitration eligibility to go, the Phillies don’t have to make a long-term agreement with Neris at this time. But if the two sides can find something reasonable for a three-year deal, something that covers his age 31-33 seasons, that would be more ideal.

One thing is clear, especially when you consider the health and performance problems that the Phillies have experienced with the rest of their bullpen arms over the last couple of years. It is a near certainty that Neris will be a key pitcher over at least the next two summers as the Phillies try to put together a playoff team.

 

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J.T. Realmuto wins 2019 NL Gold Glove Award

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J.T. Realmuto becomes the first Phillies catcher in 20 years to win an NL Gold Glove Award

 

The winners of the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced on Monday evening, with J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies earning the hardward at the National League catcher position.

Three nominees at each of the nine positions on the diamond in both the National and American Leagues had previously been announced. The Phillies had three NL nominees: Realmuto at catcher, Bryce Harper in right field, and Aaron Nola at pitcher.

The Phillies would go one-for-three as the winners were announced in a special program on ESPN2, with the 28-year-old Realmuto capturing the first Gold Glove Award of his six-year career in Major League Baseball.

After spending the first five seasons of his career with the Miami Marlins, Realmuto came to the Phillies in a February 7, 2019 trade in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart.

During his first year with the Phillies, Realmuto made his second consecutive National League All-Star team and enjoyed his finest all-around season as a big leaguer.

Realmuto becomes the first Phillies player to win a Gold Glove Award since Jimmy Rollins took home the honors at shortstop back in 2012. He is the third Phillies catcher to ever win the award, following Wall of Famers Bob Boone (1978-79) and Mike Lieberthal (1999).

On Thursday, winners of the Silver Slugger Award will be announced. Realmuto is the leading contender to win that award at the National League catcher position for the second year in a row.

Chase Utley, who won the Silver Slugger as an NL second baseman from 2006-09 is the most recent Phillies player to capture that award. The only Phillies catcher to ever win a Silver Slugger was the late Wall of Famer Darren Daulton all the way back in 1992.

When considering all aspects of the game, Realmuto is clearly the best all-around catcher in baseball at this time. He is in the prime of his career, and was arguably the Phillies most valuable player this past season.

The catcher was extremely inexpensive in modern baseball terms after having made just $5.9 million this past season. Eligible for salary arbitration this winter, the Phillies will certainly not allow the situation to ever get that far. Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer has speculated that a new deal could be at $110 million over five years.

Realmuto is due to become a free agent following the 2020 season. Having given up one of the top pitching prospects in baseball in Sanchez in order to obtain him, the Phillies certainly do not want to lose Realmuto on the open market.

In addition to all of the work that general manager Matt Klentak needs to get done this off-season in order to push the Phillies from their current status as a .500 team to contending status, working out a contract extension with Realmuto also needs to be high on his agenda.

NOTE: Featured Photo Courtesy of Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography (Twitter: @MarkKrajnak)

 

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Phillies reel in big Fish in trade for all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto

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The Phillies obtained all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto from Marlins

The Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins have completed a big trade this afternoon in which all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto will be heading north to Philadelphia.

In return the Marlins will receive catcher Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies top prospect Sixto Sanchez, prospect pitcher Will Stewart, and an international bonus slot per ESPN insider Jeff Passan.

Philadelphia and Miami are in agreement on a trade that would send All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, and an international bonus slot, league sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.

Realmuto will turn 28-years-old in the middle of spring training next month and is regarded as the top all-around catcher in the game today. He is signed at $5.9 million for this coming season and will be eligible for arbitration this time a year from now. After that he is scheduled to become a free agent.
The Phillies are certain to make early attempts at extending him for at least two-three years, taking him out to his early -30’s. In a piece just yesterday here at PN as these rumors were breaking, I wrote about a recent attempt by San Diego to obtain Realmuto contingent on negotiating just such an extension. The Marlins refused the Padres request.
Realmuto became a National League all-star for the first time last season. He also won the NL Silver Slugger after slashing .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers, 74 RBI, and 74 runs scored. He reached the 30-doubles mark for a third straight season.

Alfaro was obtained by the Phillies back at the 2015 MLB non-waiver trade deadline as part of the package from Texas in exchange for Cole Hamels. He broke into the big-leagues for a 2016 cup of coffee, then was called up in August 2017 and had remained with the Phillies ever since.

Over 143 games with the Phillies, Alfaro slashed .270/.327/.422 with 15 homers, 51 RBI, and 47 runs scored. He also struck out an alarming 179 times, or more than 35% of his 508 plate appearances.
A 20-year-old right-hander, Sanchez was the Phillies top prospect for the last year or so. He signed with the Phillies as an international free agent out of his native Dominican Republic back in February 2015.
Over four minor league seasons topping out a year ago at High-A Clearwater, Sanchez went 15-12 with a 2.48 ERA and 0.994 WHIP. He allowed just 177 hits over 221.1 innings with a 191/43 K:BB ratio.
Stewart was the Phillies pick in the 20th round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft out of an Alabama high school. The 21-year-old southpaw from Huntsville, Alabama has gone 15-6 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.197 WHIP over 56 games, 40 of those starts, topping out at Low-A Lakewood last season. He has surrendered 206 hits over 239 innings with a 203/80 K:BB ratio.
Realmuto is said to be close friends with free agent Bryce Harper, whom the Phillies have been aggressively courting for months. This trade could well be a major signal to Harper that they are setting up their clubhouse to welcome the 26-year-old superstar outfielder.