The Phillies are packed for Clearwater and the equipment truck will be stuffed on Friday morning at Citizens Bank Park. Spring training is almost here but the offseason -- the part where free agents sign with new teams -- is far from over. You can bet the equipment truck has some extra uniforms in case the Phillies are welcoming some new faces during their time in Florida.

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— Matt Breen (extrainnings@philly.com)

Sixto Sanchez remains the Phillies' top pitching prospect despite an injury-shortened season in 2018.
YONG KIM/Staff Photographer
Sixto Sanchez remains the Phillies' top pitching prospect despite an injury-shortened season in 2018.

Phillies should cling to Sixto Sanchez in trade for Realmuto

It became a bit uncertain on Wednesday who exactly will be in the group of Phillies catchers next week when the team’s pitchers and catchers gather for the first official workout of spring training.

The Phillies, sources confirmed, have had discussions this week with Miami about All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. The Marlins, sources confirmed, are requiring that the Phillies not only part with catcher Jorge Alfaro but also premier pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez if they want to land Realmuto.

And that requirement -- that the Phillies must part with their best pitching prospect since Cole Hamels -- is enough to make sure that Alfaro is in camp next Wednesday for pitchers and catchers.

No doubt, trading for Realmuto is tempting. He is the best catcher in baseball and would immediately make the Phillies better. But that’s not enough to give up Sanchez, who is just 20 years old and has the talent to breeze through the minor leagues.

Sanchez was injured for most of last season but the team was not overly concerned with the collarbone issue that kept him from going to the Arizona Fall League. Sanchez, who is on track to be ready for the start of spring training, has already shown enough reasons to be coveted. His fastball can reach triple digits, his off-speed stuff continues to improve, and he will not turn 21 until July. Baseball America ranked him as baseball’s 13th-best prospect. It is viable that he could pitch at three levels this season if he begins the year at high-A Clearwater.

The upgrade of Realmuto over Alfaro is just not enough to warrant giving up Sanchez. Alfaro was graded last season as the fifth-best pitch framer by Baseball Prospectus. He was considered a raw defender during his time in the minors and was thrust into the majors last season only because he was out of minor-league options. Alfaro had his flaws, but there is no doubt he made progress behind the plate.

He hit just .262 with a .731 OPS but those numbers could improve once he feels more comfortable with his defense. Alfaro said last summer that his defense comes first. Realmuto had a .825 OPS last season with 21 homers. He would certainly be an upgrade. But he is under club control for just two more seasons. That should not warrant the Phillies to move Sanchez. This front-office has clung to the belief that you “grow your arms and buy your bats.” And it is not the time to change course.

The rundown

The Phillies announced Wednesday that Mike Schmidt and Jimmy Rollins will be among the former players that return to Clearwater as guest instructors during spring training. Bobby Abreu, who is on this year’s Wall of Fame ballot, will return for a second-straight season.

It’s February 7 and Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still free agents. Scott Lauber took a look to see if perhaps the two big stars actually want to play in Philadelphia. “The longer the 26-year-old studs hold out, the louder the whispers will get that maybe neither really wants to play here,” Lauber writes.

The Phillies, Bob Brookover writes, are supporting manager Gabe Kapler after the Washington Post published a report last Friday that said Kapler failed to report to police after a 17-year-old girl was assaulted inside the hotel room of a Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor-league player. “Even though the Phillies have declined to make a public statement regarding the incident, the same source made clear Monday that the team continues to support Kapler fully and does not believe he conspired in a cover-up,” Brookover writes.

Important dates

Friday: The Phillies equipment truck departs for Clearwater.

Tuesday: The Phillies pitchers and catchers report to camp.

Wednesday: The first workout for pitchers and catchers.

Feb. 17: The rest of the team reports to camp.

Feb. 18: The first full-squad workout.

Feb. 22: Grapefruit League opener at the Rays, 1:05 p.m.

The Phillie Phanatic leads the Phillies truck to Clearwater in 2013.
The Phillie Phanatic leads the Phillies truck to Clearwater in 2013.

Stat of the day

So what are the Phillies packing for their trip to Clearwater? Here’s what is being stuffed into the truck: 10,000 Powerade cups; 2,400 baseballs; 2,000 short- and long-sleeve shirts; 1,200 bats; 900 socks; 600 pairs of pants; 600 batting practice hats; 350 pairs of shorts; 300 batting gloves; 250 batting practice tops; 200 fleeces; 200 light jackets; 140 batting helmets; 125 leather and elastic belts; 75 pairs of assorted spike, plastic and turf shoes; 40 heavy jackets; 20 coolers and a half-pallet of Powerade mix; 12 sets of golf clubs; six bikes and one Phanatic hot dog launcher. You can’t forget the hot-dog launcher.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @matt_breen.

Question: Spring-training starts next week and Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are still unsigned. If the Phillies could choose one, who would it be? - Joe B., email

Answer: Thanks, Joe. I think general manager Matt Klentak will have the final say when it comes to signing one of the two superstars and I believe his choice will be Machado, the player he coveted since he worked in Baltimore. The Phillies not only value Machado’s offense but his elite defense at third base and ability to play shortstop. You can make an argument for both players, but the Phillies have long valued Machado and I don’t think that has changed over the winter.