Tag Archives: Willson Contreras

J.T. Realmuto becomes lone Phillies player named to 2019 NL All-Star squad

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Bryce Harper jokes with J.T. Realmuto at 2018 MLB All-Star Game

When general manager Matt Klentak made a big trade back on February 7 of this year to acquire J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins, he knew that the Philadelphia Phillies were gaining one of the most respected catchers in the game.

Klentak paid a big price to acquire the now 28-year-old from Oklahoma. Sent to Miami were the organization’s top pitching prospect, one of the most prized in the game, in right-hander Sixto Sanchez. Also going to the Marlins were catcher Jorge Alfaro and another minor league pitcher.
Realmuto was a big part of the Phillies early-season rise to the top of the NL East Division. Though his offensive production tailed off during what was a difficult month of June for the entire team, his defensive game never wavered.
The Phillies catcher remains one of the top backstops in all of Major League Baseball. This afternoon, that was recognized once again with his selection as a reserve on the National League All-Star team.
This marks a second consecutive NL All-Star nod for Realmuto. Last year as a member of the Marlins he was one of four backstops named to the NL squad. This year, at least as the initial reserves are announced, there will be three.

The starting catcher voted to the squad for a second straight year was Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs. Joining Realmuto as a back-up behind the plate will be Yasmani Grandal of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Realmuto entered last year’s game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. as a defensive replacement for Contreras in the top of the 6th inning. He would make two plate appearances, walking twice and scoring a run during an 8-6 win for the American League.
The Phillies lone All-Star representative a year ago was pitcher Aaron Nola, who would go on to finish third in the NL Cy Young Award voting during a stellar 2018 campaign. Nola threw a scoreless 5th inning, allowing one hit and striking out two batters.
The most likely Phillies to also be considered were probably utility player Scott Kingery and reliever Hector Neris. Leading the Phillies in RBIs, Bryce Harper was an NL All-Star in each of the last four years and in six of his first seven season. Rhys Hoskins was a participant in last year’s Home Run Derby and is the Phillies current leader in home runs. None made the NL squad, at least in the initial announcement. It is possible that injuries and other considerations could still open an opportunity.
Realmuto is arbitration-eligible for one more season. He will become a free agent after the 2020 season if the Phillies do not sign him to a contract extension prior to that time. The 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place this year at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Tuesday, July 9.

Cubs lose Contreras, but Avila ready to step in

Contreras (C) has been pivotal to Cubs this season
The Chicago Cubs are the defending World Series champions, and entered the season as prohibitive favorites to repeat in the NL Central Division.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly as the team or their fans in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field had expected. The Cubbies struggled for most of the first half of the season.
Coming out hot after the MLB All-Star break, Chicago re-established themselves at the top of the division. Their most consistently productive player all season has been young catcher Willson Contreras.
The 25-year old backstop is in his first full season as the starter behind the dish on the North Side. He was slashing .274/.342/.519 with 21 homers and 70 RBI following Wednesday night’s game. Those power totals are second on the ball club.
But potential disaster struck in the late innings of that 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants. While running out a routine grounder in the bottom of the eighth inning, Contreras pulled up lame. He needed to be helped from the field with what turns out to be a hamstring injury.
An MRI on Thursday will determine the extent of the injury, as well as the length of time that Contreras is expected to miss. He could be gone for a week or so. He could also be gone for a lot longer. A stint on the Disabled List is a virtual certainty.
“He’s in good spirits,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “He said he’s had it worse than this before [in 2015 in the Arizona Fall League]. He thinks he’ll be fine. Injuries like that, when you see someone grab like that, it’s not very good. So you never know. We’ll see.’’

NEW BACKUP BACKSTOP READY TO STEP IN

Fortunately for the Cubs, they have a solid replacement ready to step into the breech. Alex Avila is a 30-year old veteran in his ninth big league season. He was obtained by GM Jed Hoyer in a deal at this year’s trade deadline.
On July 31, Hoyer shipped a pair of talented prospects, third baseman Jeimer Candelario and shortstop Isaac Paredes, to the Detroit Tigers. In exchange, the Cubs received Avila and Tigers’ closer Justin Wilson.
For many at the time, Wilson probably seemed the bigger addition. The 29-year old had saved 13 games in Detroit, allowing just 22 hits over 40.1 innings with a 55/16 K:BB ratio. He wouldn’t close with the Cubs, but as a left-hander, Wilson would become an integral part of manager Joe Maddon‘s late-innings bullpen mix.
But now it seems that Avila may prove just as crucial an addition, if not more so. With Detroit he was the starting catcher, and had a stellar .387 on-base percentage over 274 plate appearances. Avila also demonstrated some pop, with 11 homers and 32 RBI.
He certainly doesn’t lack for the confidence to step into the Cubs starting role, for however long they need him. “There’s nothing to hang our heads,’’ Avila said per Nightengale. “No reason to be upset. We’re in first place. We got to keep grinding away. Got to keep playing hard. We’re in a great position.’’
The Cubs are indeed in first place. However, their lead is just 1.5 games over Milwaukee and Saint Louis. The arch-rival Cardinals have been playing good ball for weeks. If the Cubs want to remain on top, the ability of Avila to effectively step in while Contreras is out is likely to prove a crucial factor.