J.T. Realmuto would be an appealing option for the Houston Astros, but he would not be the best use of the team’s resources.
Realmuto is, by all accounts, baseball’s best catcher. He has established himself as a force at the plate and is an above-average defensive catcher. He can transform a pitching staff and turn a lineup from good to great. In a normal offseason, Realmuto would be an obvious fit for the Astros and the other 29 teams.
This is not a normal offseason. Team’s are dealing with financial constraints as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the country, and it is impacting free agency. The market has been slow to develop and the top free agents figure to be on the market well into January. And the Astros are among the team’s most affected, with George Springer destined to play elsewhere next season.
The Astros had years to re-sign Springer before he became a free agent. They did not, and there remains a huge gap in talks – both in years and money – as he negotiates with other teams. So if the Astros are unwilling to meet the demands of Springer, who figures to land a contract well over $100 million, why would they commit to a similar deal for Realmuto, a player who the organization has little familiarity with?
There is no denying Realmuto’s talent, of course. But the Astros need to fill all three outfield positions, add a bullpen arm for the late innings and supplement the rotation with depth with Justin Verlander scheduled to miss most, if not all, of 2021. And the team has Martin Maldonado, a reliable veteran catcher, under contract for ’21.
It means that adding Realmuto, while appealing, would not be the best use of the Astros’ resources. General manager James Click has a history of checking in on free agents to see if he can sign them at a team-friendly rate and he has likely done the same with Realmuto. But if he wants to build a sustainable contender, any addition must maintain the organizations long-term payroll flexibility.
And unless Realmuto’s asking price comes down to a level that no one in baseball foresees, the Astros should not be involved. There are too many other holes on the roster that need address for Click to justify such an addition, both in the short-term and long-term.