Dodgers: J.T. Realmuto Never Fit the Dodgers’ Plans

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TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 08: Catcher J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins hits a RBI double to make it 5-0 in the top of 3rd inning during the exhibition game between Yomiuri Giants and the MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 8, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 08: Catcher J.T. Realmuto #11 of the Miami Marlins hits a RBI double to make it 5-0 in the top of 3rd inning during the exhibition game between Yomiuri Giants and the MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 8, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers were in the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes at times but after what feels like years of speculation, he was finally traded to the Phillies.  The Dodgers were never really a good fit for Realmuto.

The Dodgers were one of the finalists in the J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes but they bowed out as Realmuto was finally traded on Thursday to the Philadelphia Phillies.  With no other big names on the free agent market or trade block, the Dodgers are set to begin the season with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin as their catching duo.

Although Martin and Barnes are a relatively weak duo offensively, it’s important to remember that the most valued aspect of the catcher position these days are defense and pitch framing.  Realmuto is not a good defensive catcher and he is not a very good pitch framer either.  For comparison, Barnes ranked as the third best catcher in Stat Corner’s rankings which factor in pitch framing, and Martin was just outside the top ten.

The Dodgers are going to be more than fine defensively behind the plate and the Dodgers’ pitching staff will welcome their pitch framing ability as they continue to steal called strikes.  Even if Austin Barnes fails to revert back to 2017 form, the Dodgers don’t need a ton of offense out of the catcher position if their other hitters are producing to their normal standards.  The current World Champion Boston Red Sox won the World Series with two catchers who hit .207 and .177 during the 2018 season.

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The other part of J.T. Realmuto’s game that didn’t make him a great fit with the Dodgers was his inability to hit left-handed pitching.  As all Dodger fans know, the whole platoon debate has been a complaint the past few seasons due to some of the teams’ struggles against left-handed pitching.  Over the last three seasons in which Realmuto emerged, he has hit just .204 with a .651 OPS against southpaws.

For Austin Barnes’ career, he has a .246 average against left-handed pitching but a much stronger .794 OPS.  Barnes beats Realmuto out in average, on-base percentage, and OPS against left-handed pitching.  In 2017 when Barnes broke out, he hit .321 against right-handed pitching so the best case scenario for the Dodgers is that Austin regains his old form.  If he doesn’t the Dodgers can get by for a season with Martin and Barnes.

The other factor in the possible audition of Realmuto is that the Dodgers were being asked to include Keibert Ruiz who is one of the premier catching prospects in the game.  With Realmuto set to become a free agent after the 2020 season, it would have cost the Dodgers their top catching prospect and an expensive extension to a catcher entering his 30’s to keep J.T. around long term.

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The Dodgers have four catching prospects ranked in the top 35 catching prospects in baseball.  Realmuto would’ve been a costly addition that wouldn’t have made the Dodgers better behind the plate.  While his bat would’ve been an upgrade his defense, pitch framing, and struggles against southpaws made him a bad fit in LA.  With Ruiz and Smith both close to the majors the Dodgers did not need to make a move for Realmuto.

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