MLB·ROUNDUP

Realmuto reportedly strikes 5-year, $115.5M US deal to return to Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies and two-time all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto agreed on a five-year contract worth $115.5 million US, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

2-time all-star catcher had career highs in homers, RBI, slugging percentage in 2019

Catcher J.T. Realmuto has agreed to a five-year deal worth $115.5 million US with the Phillies. He hit .266 with 11 home runs, 32 RBI and a career-best OPS of .840 in a shortened 2020 season with the club. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images/File)

The Philadelphia Phillies and two-time all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto agreed on a five-year contract worth $115.5 million US, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.

Both people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because Realmuto's deal was pending a successful physical.

Realmuto gets $20 million next season, of which $10 million is deferred, with $5 million each payable in 2026 and 2027. He gets $23,875,000 in each of the final four years.

He does not have a no-trade provision. The deal includes a $1 million assignment bonus if traded.

Realmuto's average annual salary of $23.1 million will become the highest for a catcher, topping the $23 million Joe Mauer averaged in a $184 million, eight-year deal with the Minnesota Twins that covered 2011-18.

Realmuto was acquired from the Marlins in February 2019 in a trade that sent right-hander Sixto Sanchez and catcher Jorge Alfaro to Miami along with pitching prospect Will Stewart and $250,000 in international signing bonus pool allocation.

2nd largest deal of this off-season

Realmuto made his second National League all-star team with the Phillies in 2019 and earned a Gold Glove. He had career-highs in homers (25), runs batted in (83) and slugging percentage (.493) that season.

Realmuto, who turns 30 in March, hit .266 with 11 homers, 32 RBI and a career-best OPS of .840 last season. He earned $3,703,704 prorated for the pandemic-shortened season from a $10 million salary.

His deal is the second largest of the off-season behind outfielder George Springer's six-year, $150-million contract with Toronto.

Realmuto's market narrowed last month when the New York Mets went for a less expensive option and signed James McCann to a four-year pack worth $40.6 million.

Ex-Cleveland closer Hand finalizes Nats deal

Brad Hand knows his fastball's speed declined more than two miles per hour over the past two seasons. So the Washington Nationals' new reliever is trying to reverse that trend.

"It helped me out a lot just being able to know I can pitch at that range," said Hand, whose fastball averaged 91.4 mph last year. "Obviously, I don't want to pitch at that range -- I'm trying to get that back up -- but I just had to learn how to pitch more, you know what I mean?

The lefty finalized a one-year, $10.5-million US contract with the Nationals on Tuesday, giving the team more strength and flexibility in the back end of its bullpen.

The deal includes $6.5 million in salary that will be deferred without interest. The deferred money will come in payments of $1.5 million due next Jan. 15, $3.5 million due Jan. 15, 2023, and $1.5 million due Jan. 15, 2024.

Even with his fastball velocity down during the pandemic-truncated 2020 season for Cleveland, the 30-year-old Hand led the majors with 16 saves and compiled a 2.05 earned-run average, .169 opponents' batting average, 29 strikeouts and four walks in 22 innings over 23 appearances. The three-time all-star didn't allow a homer.

Hank Aaron memorial service in Atlanta

Brian Snitker choked back tears as he remembered Hank Aaron's affection for those who didn't possess his unparalleled talent on the baseball field.

During his post-playing career running the Atlanta Braves farm system, the Hammer had a penchant for looking beyond the can't-miss prospects.

"He always wanted to move a player up, and he preferred that it wasn't the so-called bonus babies," said Snitker, who has managed the Braves since 2016 and got his start in the dugout thanks to Aaron. "He wanted to get that grinder guy, the guy who was overachieving."

Snitker was among those who spoke Tuesday at a memorial service honouring Aaron, who died last week from natural causes at the age of 86.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and former Braves outfielder Marquis Grissom were among those who spoke at the ceremony, which was held before a small, socially distanced crowd — including Aaron's widow, Billye, and other family members — on the concourse directly behind home plate at Truist Park.

All-star Hernandez returning to Cleveland: report

Cleveland traded its all-star shortstop but is hanging on to its steady second baseman.

Free agent Cesar Hernandez, who had a strong 2020 season, has agreed to return on a one-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The team and Hernandez have an agreement, which includes a club option for 2022, in place and it will become official once medical tests have been completed.

Hernandez is playing in Venezuela, and it could be days before the everything is finalized, said the person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is still pending.

Hernandez batted .283 in 58 games and led the American League with 20 doubles in the pandemic-shortened season. He played excellent defence, committing just four errors and winning a Gold Glove for the first time.

The signing of Hernandez provides some stability to Cleveland's infield, which has a major hole to fill at shortstop following Francisco Lindor's trade to the New York Mets.

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