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Offishial news, 1/27/21: J.T. Realmuto returns; spring training status

At least in terms of established starpower, the Marlins look like they’ll be a distant fifth behind every other NL East team in 2021.

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Real difficult division

As first reported by Craig Mish, J.T. Realmuto is staying with the Phillies. His new contract, which guarantees $115.5 million over five years (with $10M of that deferred), ekes the former Marlin past Joe Mauer for the highest average annual value in MLB history for a catcher.

Despite its record-breaking nature, that strikes me as a team-friendly deal. It only binds Realmuto to the Phillies through his age-34 season. While he will likely have declined to some extent by that point, I would bet he’ll be able to continue to give them semi-regular starts behind the plate. Given the scarcity of star catchers in Major League Baseball right now, that should be comforting to the Phils (and terrifying for the Fish and other NL East teams).

Updated 2021 ZiPS projections have the Phillies still mired in mediocrity at 80-82 but comfortably ahead of the Marlins (73-89).

Per multiple reports, the Phillies aren’t done yet. In the aftermath of free agent shortstops Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons signing with the Blue Jays and Twins, respectively, they have been linked to the best available player still at the position, Didi Gregorius.

Spring training? That’s happening, right?

Not to be overshadowed by the MLB hot stove, there were a series of spring training-related developments on Monday.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic got the morning started by suggesting that the league use common sense and delay team camps due to COVID-19 concerns, then aim to get started slightly later while still squeezing in a full regular season (or something very close to 162 games). Right on cue, a group representing Arizona’s Cactus League released a statement hitting on many of the same notes. The MLB Players’ Association acknowledged the challenging circumstances ahead, but didn’t back down from plans to proceed on schedule. To that point, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium announced plans to sell tickets to Marlins and Cardinals Grapefruit League games, beginning 10 a.m. ET this coming Monday:

Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium

The first day of Marlins exhibitions—Feb. 27 split-squad games vs. the Mets (road) and Cardinals (home)—is only one month away.

Walk-off links

  • Negotiations on a new television rights deal between the Marlins and FOX Sports Florida parent company Sinclair Broadcasting continue, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. But the average annual value and total value of it remain unclear, and Jackson reports that the Marlins “began to explore other options simply to protect themselves” at one point in the process. What a mess...
  • The Herald also brings us news of Marlins ownership reaching a $4.2M settlement with Miami-Dade county to share a portion of the profits from the 2017 sale of the franchise.
  • There are no players in the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame class. Former right-hander Curt Schilling was the only one on the ballot to even sniff the required 75% threshold (71.8%). However, 2020 inductee and Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will (pandemic permitting) be the headliner during this summer’s induction ceremony in Cooperstown, NY.
  • Fish Stripes is hosting a new podcast series from Ethan Budowsky that will explore the HOF voting process.
  • What do Andrew Benintendi, Adam Frazier, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Ian Happ, Mike Tauchman and Anthony Santander have in common? I think any of them could be joining the Marlins before the end of this offseason in lieu of signing a free agent outfielder.