The best catcher in baseball was nearly a Chicago Cub back in 2014.
J.T. Realmuto is universally praised as the best catcher in baseball. Such a title is why he was offered, and eventually signed, a five-year, $115.5 million contract this offseason.
Yet, if certain events had transpired, would Reamluto even be in the City of Brotherly Love?
Let me explain. Back in 2014, the Cubs were shopping starting pitcher Jake Arrieta at the MLB Trade Deadline. In a surprising move given their history, the Marlins went in on Arrieta, nearly nabbing him for a package of prospects. The one kicker? The Cubs wanted Realmuto, then a prized prospect. The Marlins knew what they had in the young catcher and opted against the trade.
The Marlins were right not to trade away J.T. Realmuto in 2014
Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, “Realmuto, then 23, had made a brief major-league debut shortly before the trade discussions with the Cubs turned serious, replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was out with a concussion. The Marlins rightly believed Realmuto would develop into a star, and knew, like every club, that catching is forever a position of scarcity.”
The Marlins were on pace for a 71-win season, making a push for Arrieta odd. Yet, they wanted to pair him with the late Jose Fernandez, creating what they thought would be a dynamic 1-2 punch for the long-term in the process. Despite the lure of Arrieta, the Marlins wouldn’t budge on Realmuto, which ultimately ended negotiations.
The Cubs are actually lucky they didn’t make this deal, given the circumstances. Realmuto did turn into a star, but Arrieta still had his part to play in the playoff battles to come, and was a member of Chicago’s 2016 World Series team. The Cubs eventually nurtured Willson Contreras, who himself is one of the best backstops in the game.
In a way, adding Realmuto was more of a luxury that the Cubs didn’t need in the end.