It will not be long before Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida, to begin workouts for the 2020 season.  Among them will be All-Star and Silver Slugging-catcher J.T. Realmuto.  But before he heads south, Realmuto has one major offseason task left: a salary arbitration hearing with the Phillies.

The Phillies are not one to go to arbitration.  Their involvement in actual cases is rather rare.  Ryan Howard sat down with the Phillies and an arbiter in 2008, at the time landing the slugger at $10 million deal.  But the Phillies have historically preferred to settle with players ahead of time.

This time, Realmuto is not willing to settle.

The two sides are not too far apart.  The Phillies have set their number at $10 million.  Realmuto and his agent have set theirs at $12.4 million.  There is little chance the two sides will settle.  According to Realmuto, who spoke to reporters including Todd Zolecki at the Philadelphia Sports Writers dinner last night, he is looking to establish a new precedent.

Realmuto told Zolecki it is all about fighting an unfair system: 

“It's the system we're trying to fight right now,” Realmuto said. “For me, I'm trying to go out there and set a precedent for the future catchers in our game. I feel like I had a season that is worthy of being that, so I'm going to fight for it.

 

“That’s why we're doing what we're doing. It's not because the Phillies didn't give us a chance to come to an agreement. It's because we feel like we're fighting for a cause and fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers haven't been treated very well in the arbitration process, so we feel like this is an opportunity for us to advance that for future catchers.”

Zolecki notes that no matter who wins - and the winning side's salary will be Realmuto's salary in 2020 - Realmuto will set the record for an arbitration-year salary for a catcher.

MLB Trade Rumors has projected a salary of $10.3 million for Realmuto in 2020.   Matt Swartz, who puts the numbers together, is often recognized for his work projecting the numbers based on precedent.  Should Realmuto win, there will indeed be a new precedent.

Players who have gone through the process have often been frustrated by it.  A team arguing for a player's salary often picks at the holes a player has.  Realmuto has very few, but the club can argue that there is no precedent for Realmuto to earn more than $10 million, even if he is the best catcher in the game.

Realmuto insisted to Zolecki there will be no hard feelings and it will not stand in the way of a long-term deal.   After the Phillies and Realmuto settle for 2020, it is expected that the Phillies and Realmuto will discuss a long-term extension.  The Phillies will not do so until the 2020 salaries are set; the Phillies are close to the Luxury Tax threshold of $208 million and salaries are applied on their average annual value, not their salaries in any given year.

Hearings typically take place in early February.