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Could (and Should) the Red Sox have paid the price for J.T. Realmuto?

Spoilers: The answers are yes, they should have, but no, they could not have.

Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 4 Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

If you were living under a rock or paying too close attention to whether or not Anthony Davis was going to be moving from New Orleans to anywhere but New Orleans, you may have missed the news that J.T. Realmuto was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro, Will Stewart and international bonus pool money.

This is a good deal for the Phillies because they get a really good catcher who has 3 of the 7 best seasons by fWAR in the past three years among catchers. That consistent excellence rightfully made him a highly sought after piece. The Phillies also got him without giving up a ton. Maybe Sanchez becomes a great arm down the line. Maybe he’s a reliever. Maybe Jorge Alfaro becomes something more than a 2.1 fWAR catcher (which is nothing to sneeze at, that put him in a tie for 8th among catchers with at least 0 PA, all as a 25-year-old in his first full season in the majors). Maybe this is as good as he gets though, and they just have a good, not great catcher for four years.

However you slice it, the Phillies got a really good player for a bunch of prospects with legitimate questions that might get in the way of their ceiling, and this is hardly the slam-dunk that some speculated at the beginning of the off-season, and it is a far cry from reports of the Marlins asking for players like Nick Senzel and Alex Verdugo.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
Pictured: Jorge Alfaro, who is infinitely better than any of our catchers.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Now my questions become “Could the Red Sox have matched this offer? Should they have?”

The Sox farm system is very much barren in comparison with the Phillies, so all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. If the Sox offer the same value, it’s possible the Marlins go back to the Phillies and try to get them to offer more. If it becomes a bidding war, we lose, that’s plain and simple.

I just seek to understand whether there’s a comparable package the Red Sox could have come up with. Along with the bullpen, catcher might be the biggest weakness on the roster, and there’s no indication that it is going to change. Realmuto would have made this team much better, plain and simple.

The first player dealt is the biggest roadblock to determining if there was a parallel offer we could have come up with. Sixto Sanchez has a higher ceiling than any prospect in the Red Sox system at present, besides perhaps Jay Groome (who comes with his own lofty issues and is clearly not in the same tier of prospect at this point) or Triston Casas (who has played too little to actually have real value reflected properly). We could theoretically look outside the well of prospects at someone like Rafael Devers, but let’s assume we’re not putting him on the table. Of the players in system, Jay Groome is probably the closest true comparison. Sixto played 2018 in A+ ball, whereas Groome missed all of 2018. This is, it goes without saying, a huge shot to his trade value. Assuming they bite on Groome as a “front-liner”, we also have to assume significant extra value in way of a fourth piece added to the deal. We’ll get to that later.

On the basis of pure potential, Groome may check that box. He may not. But without Groome (or Casas) the door is shut, there’s zero chance of getting any sort of deal done, without talking about players that can’t be moved on the major league club.

The second piece in the deal is easier to find a comparison for. Alfaro is a good, not great, catcher. Blake Swihart is probably the closest we’re getting to that, because all of our catchers failed to get beyond 0 fWAR. Yes, zero. We got no positive production from that position last year whatsoever. All of our catchers were below replacement level. Our offer looks terrible.

Blake Swihart has some value, simply because he’s still young, and someone might want to take a chance on him. Maybe that’s something the Marlins would have been interested in doing. Probably not, but hey, we are already this far into dream-land, let’s see if we can go deeper.

Swihart had moments last season, but not all of these moments were good. For every stride forward offensively, he made strides backwards defensively. For all the strides forwards defensively, he fell back to mediocrity offensively. He rarely had all things working at once, and when he did, it was incredibly brief, like the fantasy of having J.T. Realmuto on the Red Sox.

The third piece, Will Stewart, is harder to find a comparison for. But because we’re already down 2-0 in terms of 1:1 value with the Phillies offer, let’s just presume it’s going to have to be a really good player. Given that proximity to the majors is not a concern for the Marlins, this means it could be any of our top 5-10(ish) prospects. I propose Bryan Mata, because for all his concerns with walks, he might be the next highest ceiling arm in the system, and we have to give the Marlins something to munch on.

Bryan Mata
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com

Just to make the offer valid, the Sox may have to give up a fourth piece (in addition to the pool money). That fourth piece is likely relatively inconsequential, so pick a player in the Sox Prospects top 30 or so, and call it a day.

By the end of said day, the offer becomes Groome, Mata, Swihart, and what, Josh Ockimey or Jarren Duran or someone in that tier? That package is a no-brainer for the Red Sox. I think even if you were to switch out Groome with the top prospect in the system of your choice, it would be an easy call for them, and that’s all I really need to know to say that it was impossible for the Red Sox to make a real deal for Realmuto.

The questions were pretty simple: could (and should) the Red Sox have tried to match the offer for Realmuto? Yes, they should have tried (and it’s very probable they did since Trader Dave still exists), because Realmuto is really good and our catchers are really bad. However, there really was no comparable offer the Red Sox could have made. So while they should have, there’s probably no real way they could have, without completely destroying what remains of the farm system or dealing more valuable pieces off the major-league roster.