I’ve been walking around since November with $100 in my back pocket. I host my radio show at a Delaware casino every Saturday, and I’ve earmarked that C-note to slap down at the betting window once I decide which way to wager on the Phillies in 2019.
The bill is frayed after all these months. So are my nerves. Because all this time I’ve been waiting to see whether the Phils sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper or – be still my heart – both, before investing on either side of the Vegas over-under of 84.5 wins.
And then, last Thursday, the skies opened up and there was a sign from God – or, in this case, GM Matt Klentak. The Phils swapped a top pitching prospect, a suspect catcher and a bag of beans to Miami for J.T. Realmuto, the best all-around catcher in baseball.
It’s hard for most fans to assess the value of Realmuto because, let’s face it, whoever watches the Marlins? But he’s a former shortstop who can run, block pitches and has the sport’s quickest release time throwing to second.
Offensively, Realmuto led all MLB catchers last season in slugging percentage, doubles and WAR. He popped 21 home runs playing half the time at Miami’s cavernous stadium; he’ll add a half dozen at cozy Citizens Bank Park.
I also think he’ll add four or five wins to the Phils’ bottom line. Great catchers can do that.
The Phils collapsed down the stretch to finish 80-82 last season. Since then, they added a nifty shortstop in Jean Segura, a veteran leader in Andrew McCutcheon and a reliable setup man/closer in David Robertson. They pushed out Carlos Santana, which benefits the club by putting Rhys Hoskins on first.
On the down side, the starting rotation – after Aaron Nola – looks as thin and frail as papyrus. Even with all the moves, they’ll still trot out a lineup of guys who whiff far too often. And manager Gabe Kapler raised serious questions last season as to whether he’s the guy who can lead them anywhere.
So they’re not going to win 100 games. At least not until Harper or Machado signs here. I’m waiting for that. I’m also waiting for Halley’s Comet.
But rather than keep the money in my pocket until Ben Franklin’s portrait disappears, I’m strolling to that casino betting window this weekend. Actually, I’ll be sprinting, because I want to lay down my bet before the odds makers realize how many wins Realmuto is going to add to the season total.
Phillies at 84.5 wins? Bet the over. You can thank me when you cash that ticket sometime around mid-September.