J.T. Realmuto returns to Philadelphia; excited about Phillies chances in 2021

J.T. Realmuto signs five-year deal with the Phillies
Perhaps more than anyone, J.T. Realmuto understands just how terrible the Phillies' bullpen was last season. He's hopeful now, with the addition of some flame-throwing relievers, that things will be different this time around. 

Realmuto was all smiles on Monday afternoon in a press availability on Zoom. He and the Phillies last week agreed to a five-year deal for $115.5 million. 

“Obviously, we have a long road ahead of us,” Realmuto said. “We have to make some adjustments. We have to get better, bottom line. Offensively, defensively, pitching. Specifically, with defense and pitching, there are a lot of improvements we can make. The talent is there. We just have to put it together and work hard in Spring Training. We'll see how it goes.” 

Up until last week, Realmuto's future was uncertain. He knew the Phillies wanted him back, but understood there was some uncertainty surrounding financial flexibility for the organization. Other clubs had an interest, but the market was small namely because of the pandemic and the financial strain across the sport. 

Phillies president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski traveled to Oklahoma had lunch just before Christmas with Realmuto and his wife and outlined his plan to improve the club and reiterated the organization's interest in bringing him back to Philadelphia. 

The meeting worked. 

“We walked away from that meeting, in the car on the way home, talking about how impressionable Dave and his wife were,” Realmuto said. “How nice they were. How we could tell how genuine they were. Obviously, the success he’s had speaks for itself. But that meeting, that was honestly the first thing that happened in the offseason for us. Other than a couple of Zoom calls. But that was the first time we could walk away, in the offseason, and feel confident about what was going on. We felt like Philly was going to be a good place for us again.” 


The Phillies were one of the bigger disappointments in baseball last season, missing the playoffs and finishing four games below .500. The competition in the NL East figures to be even more improved in 2021 with the Braves and Mets each already emerging as potential favorites to win the division. It was widely believed that ownership was looking to slash payroll, but inking Realmuto and Dombrowski's continued pursuit to bring established talent to Philly seems to prove otherwise. 

“[Dombrowski] talked to me about [managing partner John Middleton’s] and his thoughts and where they saw the organization going,” Realmuto said. “Some of the stuff in the media that was reported wasn’t quite as accurate, which happens. But he kind of laid rest to some of that stuff and let us know the organization is in a place to try to win. He mentioned John said he wanted this Phillies team to be one of the best teams ever. So that stuck with me. That gave me the confidence that they want to go out there and get to the postseason.” 

As for the bullpen, Realmuto assumes things will be improved this time around. The talent will be different and it's doubtful the bullpen will encounter another string of poor luck like it did last year. 

"We didn't strike a ton of guys out and late in games guys were putting balls in play more than they should have been," Realmuto said. "With that being said, we gave up a lot more soft contact hits than anybody in the league, especially late in games. We had some really bad luck, so a lot of things didn't go in our favor. Hopefully, with a little bit better luck that can change next year, but obviously there are a lot of adjustments that needed to be made on the mound. 

"We have to pound the zone better. We can't put guys on base for free. We had too many free passes last year. We have to put guys away when we get them to two strikes and not make that mistake pitch and give them a chance to put it in play." 

One of the first teammates to reach out to Realmuto upon word of his signing was Bryce Harper. If you recall, Harper mimicked signing a check last year during an exhibition game at Citizens Bank Park and wore Realmuto t-shirts during batting practice to show his desire for the club to sign him to an extension. He also was the leading force behind the #SignJT movement. 

What did Harper say? 

"Let's go, with a bunch of exclamation points," Realmuto said with a smile. 
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor

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