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Key dates in J.T. Realmuto trade negotiations

Exploring the most likely and optimal times for a deal

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been 93 days since the 2018 regular season ended, and the Marlins have yet to deal All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. Many thought the trade would get done as soon as the general managers’ meetings in early November. Nope. Perhaps the Winter Meetings in mid-December then? Negative.

Ken Rosenthal, speaking on MLB Network this morning, said the Marlins are not budging on their asking price of a top player with under three years’ service time like the DodgersCody Bellinger or the BravesOzzie Albies plus good prospects. Rosenthal stated there are a couple factors motivating the Marlins to move Realmuto before spring training.

First among them is that if the Fish want a Bellinger or Albies type, it would be difficult to acquire players of that caliber in the middle of a season when teams are reluctant to take them off the major-league roster. Secondly, teams are more flexible in the offseason. They will have addressed their catcher needs by July and might not be inclined to break up MLB team in the middle of the year. Additionally, the incoming catcher would have to learn a whole new pitching staff on the fly, a very difficult task for all involved.

With all of this in mind, here are a few milestone dates that would affect Realmuto’s value and the Marlins’ leverage if the 27-year-old is still on the team when they roll around.

January 11 - Salary arbitration figures exchanged

Next Friday, January 11, is the deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players, of which Realmuto is one. If he hasn’t been traded by then, it means his new team won’t be able to set their own arbitration figures or negotiate with him themselves. His salary for 2019 would depend on the figures he and the Marlins set. This shouldn’t affect his trade value too much because even if he gets more than the $6.1 million he’s projected for, that’s still a steal for any MLB franchise.

February 12 or 13 – Pitchers and catchers report

Miami, like most clubs, hasn’t set the date for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training yet, but the six teams that have already done so have elected one of these two dates. By this time, almost all teams will have settled on their options at catcher and will be preparing to enter the season with the players in their camp. If trades are made at all during the spring, they tend to involve teams looking to add spare parts or deal away depth pieces that lack minor-league options. It is rare to see a blockbuster after this date barring catastrophic injury somewhere.

March 28 – Marlins’ Opening Day

The official Major League Opening Day is March 20 when Seattle and Oakland start the season off in Tokyo, but most clubs won’t begin playing meaningful games until March 28. If a Realmuto deal is not in place by then, the Fish would risk losing even more in return if he were to get injured or simply not play to the level he has over the past couple years. As Rosenthal mentioned in the above video, most clubs aren’t going to want to trade away a major piece of their roster after the season begins.

July 31 Trade Deadline

If Realmuto is still in Miami once the season begins, a trade around this date would seem like the last logical possibility. However, clubs still may balk at the idea given the upheaval involved with their pitching staffs.

2019 Winter Meetings

This year’s version will be held in San Diego in mid-December. It is highly unlikely Realmuto sticks in Miami this long, as he would have just one year of control left. The Jeter ownership group will want to avoid taking any more beatings in the court of public opinion. Their best bet is to trade their backstop as soon as possible while he is at peak value and health.