J.T. Realmuto
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Padres, Dodgers may have taken lead on J.T. Realmuto talks

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As many as six teams have been linked to Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto over the last month or so, but his most ardent suitors appear to be the Dodgers and Marlins, per recent reports from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi and Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Morosi adds that the Padres’ interest is conditioned on the opportunity to negotiate a contract extension with the All-Star backstop.

Realmuto, 27, finished off a five-year run with the Marlins in 2018. He earned his first All-Star designation after an explosive first half and batted .277/.340/.484 with a career-best 21 home runs, an .825 OPS, and 4.8 fWAR by season’s end. He’s set to remain under team control through 2020, a plus for any team who, like the Padres, isn’t exactly verging on playoff contention this year. Given Realmuto’s undeniable talent and the high level of interest he’s attracted around the league, Miami can expect some top-tier talent in exchange for the slugger, though it’s not yet clear what the Dodgers or Padres are willing to give up.

Should Realmuto strike a deal in San Diego, he’ll headline an impressive array of catching depth. Defensive wizard Austin Hedges is still the Padres’ projected 2019 starter behind the dish, even if he carried a .231 average and 14 homers to Realmuto’s .277 average and 21 homers in 2018, and has the skill and durability to stick behind the plate for the majority of the season, too. Behind Hedges, 23-year-old rookie Francisco Mejia is also primed to make a difference for the team after last year’s breakout in Triple-A.

For now, however, the Dodgers and Padres are still looking at some competition for the catcher’s services. According to the latest from Heyman, the Reds, Braves, and Astros are numbered among those who have expressed interest so far.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.