The Marlins and Phillies have finalized a deal sending J.T. Realmuto, Miami’s All-Star catcher, to Philadelphia in exchange for catcher Jorge Alfaro, right-handed pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, left-handed pitching prospect Will Stewart, and international slot money. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman was the first to report that the deal was nearing the finish line, while The Athletic’s Jim Bowden and ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the finalized deal on Thursday:
Have now heard from 2 sources that Realmuto to #Phillies is down to physical reviews and 3d piece beyond Alfaro/Sanchez. But I have NOT been told anything is final.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 7, 2019
Philadelphia and Miami are in agreement on a trade that would send All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, and an international bonus slot, league sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 7, 2019
Realmuto, 27, has consistently gotten better since reaching the majors in 2014, and he’s now at the point where he’s very arguably the best catcher in baseball. He made the NL All-Star team and won his first Silver Slugger Award in 2018 while posting a .277/.340/.484 slash line with 21 homers for the Marlins. He’s considered a solid defender and should provide the most stability behind the plate that the Phillies have had since Carlos Ruiz was traded in 2016.
If they had to trade the best catcher in the league right now (and they did — Realmuto had essentially been scratching at the door dating back to the early part of the 2017-18 offseason) the 25-year-old Alfaro was about as good of a replacement as they were going to get. Alfaro was ranked as the top catching prospect in baseball as recently as 2016 by MLB Pipeline, and he’s put together some steady production since getting his first extensive big-league opportunity down the stretch in 2017. Last year, in his first full major-league campaign, he posted a .262/.324/.407 slash line with 10 homers in 377 plate appearances. He’s a solid reciever with a strong arm, and there’s a decent argument to be made that he projects as a better defensive catcher than Realmuto in the long run.
Sanchez, meanwhile, becomes the best prospect in Miami’s system. The 20-year-old right-hander, who posted a 2.51 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over eight starts (46.1 innings) at High-A Clearwater in 2018, is ranked as the No. 27 prospect overall and the seventh-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He was held back by elbow and collarbone soreness in 2018, and his relatively slight frame (6-foot, 185 pounds) provides reason for concern, but his ability to both get groundballs and touch 100 MPH with his fastball provides plenty of reason for intrigue.
Stewart, a 20th-round pick who signed out of high school in 2015, had a breakout campaign in his first opportunity with a full-season club in 2018. Over 20 starts (113.2 innings) for Low-A Lakewood, Stewart posted a 2.06 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, throwing two complete-game shutouts throughout the course of the season. He’s still not considered a premium prospect, and the fact that he struck out only 90 batters in 2018 provides reason for skepticism, but he’s still an interesting name to watch moving forward in a Marlins system that is, quite honestly, still starving for intriguing young talent.