PHILADELPHIA – JT Realmuto, Dave Dombrowski, and their better halves met for lunch in Oklahoma just before Christmas. The Realmutos come from the state of Sooner. Dombrowski’s wife too. Dombrowski saw this coincidence as an opportunity to meet the man who started the #SignJT movement in Philadelphia. Dombrowski did not arrive
The Realmutos come from the state of Sooner. Dombrowski’s wife too. Dombrowski saw this coincidence as an opportunity to meet the man who started the #SignJT movement in Philadelphia. Dombrowski didn’t arrive with a contract offer in his pocket, but he used his time to express his vision for a franchise that fell short in his recent remodel. Sure, he knew the money had to be there, but he hoped his efforts to meet Realmuto, as well as his ability to come up with a plan to fix the Phillies, could also be significant.
“We walked away from that meeting, in the car on the way home, and talked about how impressive Dave and his wife were,” Realmuto told reporters on a Zoom call Monday afternoon. “How beautiful they were. How we could tell how real they were. Obviously, the success he has had speaks for itself. But this meeting was honestly the first thing that happened for us in the off-season. Except for a few zoom calls. But that was the first time we could go out in the off-season and feel safe about what was going on. We felt that Philly would be a good place for us again. “
Understandably, Realmuto may have had some concerns. The Phillies spent a lot of money in their first two seasons in Philadelphia but never ended with a winning record. Then it seemed like they wanted to take a step back in 2021 and openly debate their need to cut the payroll, while the Braves, Mets, Nationals, and even Marlins seemed better positioned to make the postseason.
Don’t believe it, said Dombrowski.
“He talked to me about it [managing partner John Middleton’s] and his thoughts and where they saw the organization, ”Realmuto said. “Some of the content reported in the media wasn’t quite as specific as what happened. But he rested a bit and let us know that the organization is able to try to win. He mentioned that John said he wanted this Phillies team to be one of the best teams ever. So that stayed with me. That gave me confidence that they want to go out there and come for the postseason. “
Realmuto agreed to a five-year, $ 115.5 million deal last Tuesday, which was signed on Friday. It helped that the Mets didn’t wait for Realmuto and instead signed free agent catcher James McCann in December. New York had been seen as the Phillies’ main competitor. It also helped other free donors like the Blue Jays (George Springer) and Yankees (DJ LeMaheiu) spending their dollars elsewhere while other clubs cut payrolls due to lost revenue due to the pandemic.
But it worked. Now Dombrowski just has to implement the rest of his plan.
“Obviously we have a long way to go,” said Realmuto. “We have to make some adjustments. The bottom line is that we have to get better. Offensive, defensive, pitching. We can make a lot of improvements, especially in defense and pitching. The talent is there. We just have to put it together and work hard in spring training. We’ll see how to do it. “
Last week the Phillies signed deals with shortstop Didi Gregorius and left-handed Matt Moore. Gregorius completes a line-up that ranks fifth in baseball in 2020. Moore is seen as a favorite to win a job in the rotation behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin. The Phillies previously acquired helpers Archie Bradley, José Alvarado and Sam Coonrod to improve one of the worst bullpens in baseball history.
More help is coming.
“There are still a lot of free agents out there so I still think we look at value in some way,” said Dombrowski.
Each value moves forward after Realmuto is back. Without him it would have been difficult to find a way for the Phillies to land near the top of the division.
Especially after the success of Sixto Sánchez in Miami last year, there was enormous public pressure to re-sign Realmuto. The Phillies traded Sánchez, Jorge Alfaro and a minor league pitcher for the Marlins in February 2019 to acquire Realmuto. The idea of losing Realmuto after failing the postseason in his only two seasons in Philadelphia seemed unfathomable.
That’s why Bryce Harper and others joined the # SignJT campaign.
“Are the rumors true?” Harper texted Realmuto when the first news came on Tuesday.
“Yes, we’re getting closer,” Realmuto replied.
When the deal got official, Harper wrote with lots of exclamation marks: “Let’s go,” said Realmuto.
“I’m really just glad it worked out that way,” said Realmuto. “The organization and my teammates brought me in straight away as if I were their own. The fans immediately hugged me. You have been good to me from day 1. You treated my family great so it was important to us. We weren’t shy about how much we love playing for the Phillies, so we’re just very excited and grateful for the opportunity they gave us. “
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