He is so well-regarded that when chasing after then-Pirates ace starting pitcher Gerritt Cole, the Astros reportedly made Tucker unavailable in talks, as he was when the Astros acquired future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander last season as well.
The Astros would not part with Tucker to land either of two ace-quality starters.
So it should be read with a healthy skepticism that the Astros are “considering” dealing Tucker to Miami in exchange for young catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Now, it’s not outlandish to envision the Astros trading for Realmuto, or at least trying to. And it’s not outlandish for the Marlins to set their asking price at “Tucker, and…?” That’s the way bargaining has to start.
Realmuto is an exceptionally good catcher. He can hit (.280/.322/.428, 101 wRC+ for his career), and he is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. He can even run a little bit. Perhaps most enticing, he should have at least three more seasons remaining of team control, since he is entering his first arbitration year.
Tucker is an exceptionally good hitter. In fact, his hit tool has been described as one of the best in the minor leagues. It’s not hard to squint and imagine him taking over in Left or Right Field for the Astros even as early as mid-season this year.
So in a vacuum, both teams’ desire for the other club’s player makes sense.
And that’s where it breaks down.
First, there’s this:
Mr. Mish is standing by his source. But who to believe? Does it behoove the Marlins to deny the report if the original report is accurate? Well, maybe, if there’s a chance that the leak pisses off the Astros. Does it behoove the Marlins to deny the report if it’s false? Maybe, because the denial could generate goodwill with the Astros.
Or maybe the report is just false, and the Astros and Marlins really aren’t engaged much at all.
And who’s the source? Is it a rogue inside the Marlins’ organization, or did the Marlins do this on purpose to drive the asking price up for other clubs, as was rumored when it “leaked” that Tucker and co-top-prospect SP Forrest Whitley were originally involved in the Cole deal with the pirates? (they weren’t.)
Or was the source within the Astros? Why would the Astros or any of their front office leak this? To gauge fan reactions? (fans probably don’t like it) To apply some pressure on the Marlins to accept the deal because their fans would love it? Ugh, if so.
Or was the source the Realmuto camp, trying to leak something to the media that they knew would stir the pot and maybe get things moving. Maybe they’re trying to cheese off the Marlins to force a trade, because let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want out of there right now?
Or maybe Derek Jeter did it, in his quest to completely destroy whatever goodwill he had at the end of his playing career in some twisted journey towards the ideal of a beancounting soul-crushing gagillionaire owner.
Who cares. It still doesn’t make sense.
Because the Astros have a pretty good catcher already in Brian McCann, who the pitching staff reportedly loves. McCann, who has a vesting option that is likely to vest (90 games starting at catcher in 2018, and not ending the season on the DL), as well as a full no-trade contract clause.
So by all likelihood, Brian McCann will remain on the Astros through the 2019 season (which isn’t a bad thing), meaning that Realmuto would not even become the primary catching option until his third arbitration season, after which he’s probably gone anyway.
As neat as it would be to have a young excellent catcher in Realmuto on the Astros, they don’t seem likely to do it by dealing away their best offensive prospect since
George Springer Carlos Correa Alex Bregman. Especially considering that they already have a well-regarded and borderline Hall of Fame catching option in McCann. It seems like an odd fit.
Let’s be honest — it really isn’t likely that the Astros acquire Realmuto from the Marlins. And if by some bizarre twist of fate it does happen and Realmuto becomes by far the best backup/tandem catcher in the major leagues for the best team in the major leagues, it also doesn’t seem likely that the Astros would trade away a player who was off-limits for the best starting pitcher on their staff and arguably the second-best as well.
The rumor is worth reporting. And it’s worth discussing. But it’s probably not worth getting excited about, one way or the other.