Phinally, they did it!

After months of heavy breathing, negative thoughts, and tough nights, the Philadelphia Phillies and all-star catcher JT Realmuto have agreed to a five year contract worth $115.5M. The contract includes an AAV of $23.1 million dollars is highest ever for a catcher in baseball history topping former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer’s annual salary of $23 million. (UPDATE) The contract has no buyouts and no options, Realmuto is deferring half of his pay this year to at least 2026, and JT will be the highest paid catcher per year in MLB history at $23.1 million a year.

Now everyone take a deep breath! JT is back!

Realmuto, who will turn 30 on March 18, joined the Phillies in February of 2019 in a trade from the Miami Marlins. He is widely considered the best all-around catcher in baseball.The agreement between Realmuto and the Phillies ends nearly two years of on-again, off-again negotiations between the two sides.

The Phillies tried to extend Realmuto’s contract shortly after acquiring him, and again in spring training 2020, but both times the club came up short.

Realmuto came to the Phillies two years shy of free agency and was only going to give up that right for a very rich deal. Several times during interviews over the past year, Realmuto made it clear that he believed catcher salaries had lagged behind other position players in the game, and he dedicated himself to raising the bar for all catchers either in a huge extension or on the free agent market. 

Realmuto was seeking a seven-year deal worth $200 million when talks between his side and the Phillies were shut down because of the pandemic in March. 

When Major League Baseball lifted its stop on transactions and negotiations in late June, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spoke on the team’s chances to retain Realmuto when he said there was a “changed” financial landscape in the game due to a shortened 2020 season and revenue losses caused by the pandemic. “We just need to let that play out,” Klentak said.

Still looking for a record contract, Realmuto became a free agent shortly after the World Series, but the market for his services was never as strong as he and his advisers had anticipated.

The New York Mets, a team with deep pockets and a need for a catcher, signed a cheaper option in James McCann, and other teams who may have had a need behind the plate cut spending or used their limited resources to address other positions. One of those teams was the New York Yankees, who spent their free-agent dollars on retaining second baseman DJ LeMahieu, rather than sinking them into a need at catcher.

There were several other potential landing spots for Realmuto that never materialized, most notably the Toronto Blue Jays, who used their free-agent dollars on outfielder George Springer.

Eventually, Realmuto’s market swung right back to Philadelphia.

The Phillies, as Klentak had said back in June, let things play out and ended up with their man.

Klentak was not there to preside over the final stages of negotiations and the agreement as he was fired after five losing seasons in October and replaced by veteran executive Dave Dombrowski in December. One of Dombrowski’s first moves was to visit with Realmuto in person in the player’s home state of Oklahoma two days before Christmas.

“It’s apparent why everyone in the Phillies organization thinks so highly of J.T. as a person and a player,” Dombrowski said of the meeting.

Realmuto becomes the third player on the Phillies’ roster with a contract of greater than $100 million, joining outfielder Bryce Harper, who is entering the third year of a 13-year, $330-million deal, and Zack Wheeler, who is entering the second year of a five-year, $118 million deal.

Realmuto’s return will make the clubhouse happy. He is one of the most well-respected players in the room, and all of baseball, for that matter. He’s well-respected because he’s quiet, serious, head-down, and his hard-working approach to the game. Harper is one of Realmuto’s biggest fans and he spoke loudly for the team to re-sign his favorite player.

“JT Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year, plain and simple,” Harper said after the last game of the 2020 season.

The biggest question of the Phillies’ offseason has been answered.

J.T. Realmuto is back.

Be excited, Philadelphia.