By Sam Bush

It may be instructive, when considering Phils catcher JT Realmuto’s arbitration, to compare it to Anthony Rendon, the Nats great third baseman who signed to play in 2020 with the Los Angeles Angels.

Realmuto earned $2.9 million and $6.05 million in his first two years of arbitration. Rendon earned $2.8 million and $5.8 million. As third-time eligible players, their career numbers were eerily similar (Rendon qualified for a fourth year of arbitration last season before becoming a free agent).

Realmuto 685 84 673 .779
Rendon 634 78 694 .812

Yet, Rendon earned $12.3 million as a third-time eligible, and after Thursday’s decision Realmuto will earn $10 million. Considering that Realmuto was the NL Gold Glove at catcher in 2019, a case can be made that he was the more valuable player at the same stage of their careers. Catcher is a more critical and physically demanding defensive position than third base.

The Phillies cannot be accused of low-balling Realmuto – they offered him $11 million before the sides exchanged figures, sources said. Even at $10 million, Realmuto’s salary far exceeds those of the top two previous third-time eligible catchers: Matt Wieters ($8.275 million in 2015) and Yasmani Grandal ($7.9 million in ’18).

Nothing in the criteria for arbitration says that players only can be compared to their peers at the same position. But the arbitrators in Realmuto’s case were unwilling to set the bar for catchers even higher by ruling in his favor and putting him $100,000 above Rendon.

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