Mets signing J.T. Realmuto still possible if James McCann gets away
The signs continue to point toward James McCann, eventually, signing up to be the Mets’ catcher.
But if the California native winds up signing with the Angels or another suitor, the Mets can rest easy on another catching front: It appears that Dave Dombrowski’s arrival in Philadelphia won’t result in a windfall for J.T. Realmuto.
The Mets and McCann, their first choice to succeed Wilson Ramos behind the plate, have spoken at length about a long-term contract, yet they haven’t come to an agreement as word spreads of other clubs’ interest in McCann. One executive from another National League club predicted on Friday that the Mets and McCann would wind up together, echoing what many others on both sides (teams and agents) of the Hot Stove frontlines have said; The Post’s Joel Sherman has cited sources who ballparked the deal at four years for between $36 million and $48 million.
Don Cooper, who just finished a 19-year run as the White Sox’s pitching coach, endorsed the Mets’ pursuit of McCann, who dramatically elevated his stock the past two seasons while working with Cooper’s pitchers on Chicago’s South Side.
“Prepared guy,” Cooper wrote in a text message. “Works well with staff. Interested in improving his game [framing]. Solid teammate. Improved offensive player. Some pop in bat. Throws well behind plate. Quality person.”
Asked if McCann, 30, could adapt to New York’s scrutiny and intensity, Cooper, a New York City native who pitched briefly for the Yankees in 1985, wrote, “He’d be good anywhere those qualities I mentioned are needed.”
Realmuto, 29, who spent his past two seasons with the Phillies after growing up a Marlin, scores high grades across the board and has a better track record (and therefore should land a higher contract) than McCann. Dombrowski, in his introductory news conference as the Phillies’ president of baseball operations Friday, said, “Everybody in the organization loves J.T. I think there’s a unanimous feeling they’d like to bring him back.”
He added: “Now, those things are never easy. A lot of us have dealt with free agency. There is some flexibility to make moves there, but can you get something like that done? I’m not sure.”
The 2020 Phillies fielded a team that would have posted a $203-million-plus payroll (thanks, Spotrac) had COVID-19 not considerably shortened the schedule, and Dombrowski acknowledged, “I wouldn’t expect [the 2021 payroll] to be at that same amount as last year.” They already have an estimated payroll of $149-plus million for next season. So while a re-signing of Realmuto remains possible, the Phils likely won’t be in a position to blow other suitors out of the water.
The Mets have stayed in touch with the Realmuto camp in case the market shifts. Nevertheless, it appears they’d rather sign McCann to catch and then commit a larger contract to either Trevor Bauer or George Springer (or both).
As for Dombrowski’s return from the sidelines — the Red Sox fired him in September 2019 — he told The Post that the Mets didn’t reach out to him to be their president of baseball operations. That’s not a shocker; Dombrowski and Mets president Sandy Alderson stand about equally in the industry and asking Dombrowski to report to Alderson wouldn’t be reasonable. Dombrowski had been in Nashville, working to get that city a baseball expansion franchise, when he learned just this past week from Major League Baseball contacts that, thanks to the pandemic, MLB wouldn’t so much as listen to presentations from expansion candidates in 2021. That opened Dombrowski’s mind to returning to a front-office position, and it was right around then that the Phillies reached out to him a third time.
“I don’t look at this as a situation where we’re one player away from winning,” Dombrowski said of the Phillies, who went 28-32 in 2020. “I think we need to do a few things with this team.”
As do the Mets with theirs. Except (it still feels weird writing this) they have more to spend than do their rivals in the City of Brotherly Love.