By Sam Bush
The Nats are among the teams with interest in free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Washington has had rumored interest in Realmuto for years, dating back to the Bryce Harper era. Why wouldn’t they? He entered the winter ranked as CBS Sports’ No. 2 free agent.
Realmuto is coming off the second-best offensive season of his career, hitting .266/.349/.491 with 11 homers in 47 games. Perhaps the best way to sum up Realmuto is to acknowledge that he hit the ball 95 mph or harder as frequently in 2020 as Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and Pete Alonso did … and that he accomplished that feat while playing above-average defense behind the plate.
Realmuto is more athletic than the standard backstop, and he has averaged seven steals per pop since his first full season. If you’re looking for nits to pick, you can bemoan his single-digit walk rate, or his propensity for swinging and missing. Otherwise, the best a fearmonger can do is point to the dicey history of 30-something catchers. Realmuto, nearing his age-30 season, has enough going for him that he’s going to get paid — and he’s likely going to be worth it.
Heyman notes that it’s unclear if the Nationals’ ownership group would greenlight a Realmuto deal. Washington’s Opening Day payroll is already projected to be around $150 million, or around $26 million less than it was supposed to be last Opening Day. There’s no telling if general manager Mike Rizzo has the clearance to spend up to or more than that amount.