Phillies forced to bring back J.T. Realmuto because they made a decade’s worth of mistakes

Phillies forced to bring back J.T. Realmuto because they made a decade’s worth of mistakes

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Illustration for article titled Phillies forced to bring back J.T. Realmuto because they made a decade’s worth of mistakes
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The Phillies acted as if the franchise — which has lost more games than any professional team in the world of sports since its inception — didn’t have to bring back J.T. Realmuto. However, the 138-year old organization with just two World Series championships to its credit, had no choice. After trading away young stud hurler Sixto Sanchez to the Marlins for Realmuto in 2019, not inking the best catcher in baseball would have set the Phillies back. Bringing Realmuto back to the fold was the right move and at the right price. Bryce Harper is happy his buddy will be back to help solidify a lineup that can still use a shortstop.

The Phillies finally played their cards right after years of not knowing when to hold ’em or when to fold ’em. Let’s look at some of the reasons the Phillies have missed the playoffs over the last 10 years and ticked off a loyal fan base.

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1. Poor drafts

1. Poor drafts

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The Phillies have routinely swung and missed while selecting prospects over the last decade. For some reason the Phillies were attracted to Cornelius Randolph, who was selected tenth overall in the 2015 MLB draft. The Phillies passed on future All-Stars Walker Buehler of the Dodgers and Mike Soroka of the Braves. I asked Randolph’s agent, Scott Boras, during the presser, who his client reminded him of. “He’s the next Tony Gwynn,” Boras said. Apparently Boras meant Tony Gwynn, Jr. It’s possible but not easy to blow the No. 1 pick in the draft, but it appears that the Phillies did just that by selecting Mickey Moniak first overall in 2016. Moniak projects at best as a fourth outfielder. The word was the Phillies were saving money by picking Moniak and having the ability to spend more on their second-round pick, pitcher Kevin Gowdy, so he would sign. The Phillies passed on Braves hurler Ian Anderson and Reds outfielder Nick Senzel.

The Phillies did hit with Aaron Nola, who is a solid starter, with the No. 7 overall pick in 2013 and with Alec Bohm, the third overall pick in 2018. However, the Phillies have failed to develop players in the latter rounds. The best of the bunch is Rhys Hoskins, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. Hoskins has power but has defensive limitations. The Phillies got roughly a 3 WAR in 2020 from players they developed. That’s considerably less than their division-rival Braves, the White Sox and the Astros. Winning teams almost always reap the benefits of a terrific farm system. Look at teams with big payrolls, such as the Yankees of 1996-2001. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera were the core of that legendary squad, not free agents. If the Phillies could develop outfield talent, which is the easiest type of player to cultivate, owner John Middleton wouldn’t have had to spend $330 million for Bryce Harper. But the Phillies had no choice since they failed to select and develop a Ronald Acuna or Juan Soto.

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2. Failure to trade assets in a timely manner

2. Failure to trade assets in a timely manner

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Ruben Amaro admitted that he should have traded Cole Hamels, Chase Utley (above) and Jimmy Rollins sooner than the former Phillies general manager did when the team was sliding. Amaro and the Phillies still thought they had a chance to compete in 2013 and 2014. They failed to recognize that, and by the time they realized they weren’t going to contend, the value of Utley and Rollins diminished. Amaro even held on to marginal players, such as reliever Antonio Bastardo and outfielder Marlon Byrd, too long.

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3. Poor trades

3. Poor trades

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With the possible exception of Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies failed to receive much of an impact from any of the other players acquired when they traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers in 2015. Speaking of Alfaro, he was jettisoned along with the aforementioned Sanchez (above) for Realmuto. That deal with the Marlins had worst-of-the-decade written all over it if the Phillies failed to re-sign Realmuto. Sanchez, an incandescent talent, utterly dominated at times in 2020 courtesy of his velocity and movement. The Ken Giles deal netted the Phillies nothing more than Vince Velasquez, who consistently struggles. The Phillies received nothing for Utley.

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4. Mistakes in free agency

4. Mistakes in free agency

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Signing a past-his-prime Jake Arrieta to a 3-year, $75 million deal and inking Carlos Santana when he should have started the DH portion of his career weren’t the best decisions former GM Matt Klentak made during his tenure. The only good free agent move made by Klentak was the signing of Harper. Complain if you will about Harper’s salary, but teams who draft poorly have to pay through the nose in order to try to right the ship.

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5. Bad luck

5. Bad luck

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Even when the Phillies did the right thing it blew up in their face. Klentak had the right idea when he signed Charlie Morton to a one-year deal in 2016. Morton was coming into his own with the Pirates but wasn’t quite there yet. He was on the verge of reaching the next level. However, he only pitched 17 innings in red pinstripes due to a hamstring injury he suffered in April. The following season Morton was a huge reason the Astros won the World Series. After having a solid season as a starter for Houston, Morton shut down the Dodgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series for the Astros’ first championship.

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