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Post-Winter Meetings update to J.T. Realmuto trade market

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The Marlins have (reportedly) made progress in their quest to flip the All-Star catcher for long-term building blocks.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fairly surprising that the J.T. Realmuto trade was not completed at the 2018 Winter Meetings. He wants to win now, the Marlins don’t want to pay what it takes to lock him up through their competitive window, and plenty of other MLB teams want him. We can all see what direction this is headed. Fish Stripes will introduce our first-ever staff prospect rankings next week, and I’m hoping that the top of the list features at least one new arrival.

However, the Marlins front office is determined to get a huge return for baseball’s best catcher. They won’t be pressured by arbitrary deadlines when Realmuto has two more years under club control.

That being said, Miami must trade the All-Star eventually. The improved farm system hasn’t improved enough to generate a homegrown, championship-caliber core. Aside from Realmuto, the roster lacks impact major leaguers with considerable market value. He is their chip.

So what’s the latest?

Mets rumors dominated the meetings. Rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is trying to get creative in reimagining a fourth-place team’s roster into a legitimate NL East contender. New York has targeted Realmuto, but won’t send back Amed Rosario as the centerpiece of the package. On Thursday, SiriusXM/Swings and Mishes host Craig Mish confirmed a report from Newsday’s Tim Healey that the athletic shortstop is off the table.

The Mets and Braves continue to be reasonable landing spots, followed closely by the Reds. Despite losing nearly as much as the Marlins in 2018, they have pursued dramatic upgrades this winter via both trade and free agency. With a track record of persuading their stars to forego free agency, Realmuto’s limited club control doesn’t appear to be a deterrent.

As the Marlins ask for the moon and the stars, deep organizations like the Padres and Yankees are best suited to facilitate the trade. Not so straightforward, though—there’s been ongoing dialogue about them acting as a third party, sending young talent to Miami and receiving other veteran contributors while Realmuto finds his new home. The Marlins-Mets-Yankees scenario hasn’t progressed lately; SNY’s Andy Martino reported Thursday that a Marlins-Mets-Padres blockbuster was discussed in Las Vegas.

Can’t critique president of baseball operations Michael Hill for any lack of effort:

Previous suitors like the Astros, Brewers and Rockies seem to have backed away from the bidding war for the time being.

One factor gnawing at the Marlins’ leverage is the availability of Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos in free agency. Both ranked among the top five of all MLB catchers in Wins Above Replacement last season. They’d be a tier below Realmuto (league-leading 4.8 fWAR), but still represent better options than what many teams currently have internally.

It would be a fortunate twist if deep-pocketed darkhorses signed them, tightening the screws on everybody else.