New Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had an in-person meeting with J.T. Realmuto in the free-agent catcher's home state of Oklahoma just before Christmas, according to sources.
Dombrowski confirmed that the meeting took place over lunch at a restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma on Dec. 23.
"It was just about getting to know one another," Dombrowski said Wednesday. "Everything went great. It's apparent why everyone in the Phillies organization thinks so highly of J.T. as a person and a player."
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Dombrowski's wife, Karie, is from Oklahoma, not far from where Realmuto lives, and the couple had previous plans to travel there for Christmas. On a whim, Dombrowski reached out to Realmuto's representative, Jeff Berry, the night before the trip to see if the All-Star catcher was up for a social visit. Realmuto said yes. The two men were joined by their wives and an uncle of Karie Dombrowski at the lunch meeting.
"We spent about 90 minutes together and had a really nice conversation," the Phillies executive said.
Dombrowski said no contract negotiations of any kind took place at the meeting.
He would not say if an offer had been extended to Realmuto in other settings.
"We have talked to him and his representative," Dombrowski said. "We're interested in signing him."
Dombrowski was asked if he had any optimism of striking a deal.
"That's a tough one to answer," he said. "We're hopeful. We'd love to have him back in Philadelphia."
Pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training in five weeks.
"We'd love to get something like this done sooner rather than later," Dombrowski said. "But there's no immediate pressure at this point."
In addition to needing a full-time catcher, the Phillies are looking for a shortstop to replace free agent Didi Gregorius. Maybe Gregorius' replacement is Gregorius himself.
"We're interested in signing him," Dombrowski said.