Miami Marlins

Realmuto trade talks drag on as Marlins play hardball for catcher

Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto reflects on All-Star experience

Miami Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto talks about his first All-Star Game experience.
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Miami Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto talks about his first All-Star Game experience.

When the Marlins were shopping Miguel Cabrera at the Winter Meetings of 2007, fewer than five teams showed interest in one of the greatest hitters of his generation, a Hall of Fame-caliber talent.

The demand for J.T. Realmuto has been greater. Far greater.

Two more unidentified teams joined the Realmuto bidding frenzy on Wednesday as trade talks for the All-Star dragged on for a third day at the Winter Meetings. At least eight teams remain in the thick of trade discussions for Realmuto as the Marlins continue to weigh offers. At one point, there were more than a dozen.

“You’re talking about a premium position, so there should be interest and I’m not surprised,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “But in terms of sheer volume that we’d had to work through, it has been unique.”

Said one former front office executive of Realmuto: “Best overall profile on the trade or free agent market, including (Manny) Machado and (Bryce) Harper.”

Machado and Harper are the two biggest free agent names available this winter.

Realmuto is not the hitter that Cabrera was in his prime. Not even close. Nor is he the second coming of Johnny Bench or Pudge Rodriguez, two of the greatest catchers of their eras. But he is by far the best player at his position, a position that is woefully weak throughout Major League Baseball.

Realmuto, in other words, stands out above the rest, and by a good margin.

Thus the demand.

“There’s not a lot of depth there,” Hill said of the catching position in the majors. “That’s why I think there are so many different types of teams that have expressed interest. It’s universal that you need the right guy behind the dish.”

And thus the time it is taking the Marlins to sort through the myriad of trade proposals in order to make the best deal possible.

“Ultimately the goal is to make the best decision for this organization, and that’s what I’m charged to do,” Hill said. “So we’re thorough in our process. When that time comes that something might make sense, then we’ll go from there.”

One new potential trade partner, the Cincinnati Reds, surfaced for the first time on Wednesday, though a source said they’ve been involved in discussions for “a while.” Other teams that, as of Wednesday, were still involved: the New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.

“There have been a couple of new teams that have entered, which also makes it challenging because you want to be thorough with the process,” Hill said.

Hill would not identify the new teams, or even the ones that have existed throughout the process.

“At this point, we’re listening to (trade) ideas, a myriad of different options, to see if there’s something there,” Hill said.

The Winter Meetings end Thursday and the Marlins could leave without completing a deal for him. The Realmuto trade talks could continue on into December, and Hill didn’t rule out the possibility that he’s still with the team at the start of spring training in February.

Most in baseball expect a deal to get done soon, though.

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Clark Spencer is one of the nation’s most experienced baseball writers and has covered the Miami Marlins since 1999. He is past-president of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Along with baseball, Spencer has also covered the Summer and Winter Olympics, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Four, College Football Playoffs and Triple Crown.