Ring The Bell: Archie Bradley and Realmuto Offer

Signing Bradley to aid the ailing bullpen is a smart move by President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, and there may yet be more room to improve.

Thanks for reading Ring The Bell, which will be posted on Mondays, at least three times per month.

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Thanks for reading Ring The Bell, which will be posted on Mondays, at least three times per month.

Every team with postseason aspirations needs a lockdown reliever or two in the bullpen. At the moments of highest leverage, every manager should be able to turn to a pitcher who will not crack under pressure—someone who lives for the electricity of a late-inning save opportunity.

  The Philadelphia Phillies certainly have postseason aspirations. They’re currently mired in the midst of a nine-year playoff drought, and are treated to the services of Bryce Harper for the next eleven seasons. The time to win is now.

  Except, there’s one tiny problem—they have no serviceable options in the bullpen. The only exceptional reliever the Phillies had last year was Hector Neris, if you can even call him exceptional. He’s been wildly inconsistent over the past few seasons, seemingly deciding the outcome of his pitching performances on a whim.

  But, as of January 18th, we might be able to relegate the bullpen’s struggles to the past tense. Archie Bradley, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds, has signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Phillies.

  This is a great signing, as Bradley offers both experience and quality results to a bullpen that badly needs both. I think that this move grades out pretty similarly to the Jose Alvarado trade which I covered last time; Bradley and Alvarado are both flamethrowing relievers with late inning experience. An added bonus for the Phils is that Bradley is a righty, while Alvarado is a lefty, so the two should complement each other well at the back end of the bullpen.

  In 221 appearances since 2017, he’s compiled a 2.95 ERA and a corresponding 152 ERA+, which is markedly above the league average. Making the move to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park might bring those numbers down slightly, but it’s almost impossible to do worse than the 2020 Phillies. Dave Dombrowski’s efforts to remodel the bullpen have begun to take shape, and if Neris’ performance stabilizes, it could be quite the turnaround for the Fightin Phils’ relief corps.

  In other recent news, the Phillies have made a formal offer to superstar catcher J.T. Realmuto, which comes in at five years, over $100 million. Realmuto, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins before the 2019 season, is generally regarded to be the best catcher in all of baseball in terms of all-around skills. However, he’s now a free agent, and the Phillies have been locked in an infamous staredown with his agents for what feels like forever.

  As the premier catcher in the MLB, Realmuto publicly expressed his intentions to secure a record-setting contract, whether it be with the Phillies or another team. The number he’s shooting for stands with recently-retired catcher/first-baseman Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, who made $23 million per year over an eight year span from 2011-2018. Mauer enjoyed a very successful career all the way to the end, but not everyone experiences such a productive twilight.

  The record for active players currently sits with Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, who makes $21.4 million per year as part of his eight-year, $168 million contract extension he signed in 2013. Posey won the NL MVP award in 2012, which may be the greatest season of all time for a catcher, but has steadily declined since then, and the Phillies don’t want to make the same mistake.

  Before he opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus, Posey had a poor 2019 season, and he’s set to make over $40 million over the next two seasons. Catcher is the most physically-taxing position on the field, and as players move upwards in age, their play begins to decline. Posey was 26 at the time of his extension, but Realmuto is going on 30.

  There’s no question that Realmuto is worthy of the money now, but how much longer will his peak performance last? With Harper making $25.3 million per year, the Phillies don’t have the kind of payroll accommodations to pay a player for prior performance. See Howard, Ryan.

 The $100 million figure of the Phillies’ reported offer is below Realmuto’s asking price, but if the offer turns out to be larger, then there’s a possibility that news may break in the coming days. The kind of money that the team will have to cough up is certainly large, but I see J.T. Realmuto becoming the Phillies’ longtime catcher; I’m not sure who they would sign or trade for, if he doesn’t return.

  It’s time for the Phillies to pay their superstar catcher handsomely—and maybe get a little stupid with it.