The Marlins are very likely to trade J.T. Realmuto, it seems, and who could blame them? With a dearth of quality catchers available across Major League Baseball and teams with deep farm systems already eager to negotiate, this is an opportunity to flip the All-Star to address several long-term needs.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported Friday morning that the Houston Astros “have remained in contact” regarding Realmuto. A source tells him that the Marlins are requiring them to include one of their top two prospects—outfielder Kyle Tucker or right-hander Forrest Whitley—in any potential deal.
Tucker made his major league debut this past summer at age 21, struggling in a limited sample (.141/.236/.203 in 72 PA). However, he is a consensus top-10 prospect in baseball, including No. 5 on MLB Pipeline’s overall list. Much younger than his competition at every minor league level, the former first-round draft pick had been raking for several years prior to that call-up. He projects to be a lethal offensive player with his combination of power, speed and contact skills.
Whitley, another former first-rounder who’s also 21, missed the bulk of the year due to an injury and PED suspension. After returning, though, he checked all of the boxes that talent evaluators look for in a future MLB ace. He was among the top performers in the Arizona Fall League—26 IP, 2.42 ERA, 36 K, 0.96 WHIP—to solidify his place as the sport’s top pitching prospect heading into 2019.
These teams were originally engaged in talks way back in February, according to SiriusXM host Craig Mish. Houston elected to open their season with internal catching options, getting surprisingly strong production from Max Stassi, then trading for Martin Maldonado to bolster the position down the stretch.
A few weeks ago, our own Ian Smith explained why Realmuto is still a priority for them. Assuming that Tucker and Whitley were off the table, he imagined this 3-for-1 deal:
- Marlins acquire 1B/OF Yordan Alvarez (Astros No. 3 prospect), RHP Corbin Martin (No. 6), RHP J.B. Bukauskas (#8)
- Astros acquire C J.T. Realmuto
Despite Morosi’s report, Mish doesn’t believe a trade is imminent. He had recently identified the Astros as one of Realmuto’s likeliest landing spots, slightly behind the Braves, who may have submitted an offer to the Marlins at the GM Meetings in California. Expect the Realmuto situation to intensify once the calendar flips to December (for everybody’s sake, let’s hope there’s a resolution before holiday season arrives).
If Houston caves in, agreeing to center a package around either Tucker or Whitley, who would you rather see in the new Marlins colors?