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December 11, 2020

Dave Dombrowski: 'Unanimous feeling' Phillies front office wants to bring back J.T. Realmuto

Phillies new hire also says he considers it a "retool" and not a "rebuild"

Phillies MLB
JT-Realmuto_022420_usat Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto during workouts at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla.

The Phillies didn't waste time in introducing their new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who addressed an assembly of more than four dozen media members via Zoom Friday.

And for the first time in a few months, the Phillies are finally communicating clearly their intentions for the 2021 season.

"I consider it a retool not a rebuild for sure," said Dombrowski, who won two World Series' leading the Marlins and Red Sox front offices. "I think there are too many good players on the club. We have a star player in right field in Bryce [Harper], anytime you have three good starting pitchers like we have at the top of the rotation [Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin] you're in a place to be competitive."

In just one answer, Dombrowski more or less thwarted rumors from last week that Wheeler was being shopped and made it clear they will not be selling left and right in a full rebuild. But will they be trying to add pieces in order to compete? 

"I know [Phillies owner John Middleton] wants to win," Dombrowski said. "We have flexibility of finances, but when I say that, I don't think it's an unlimited amount of funds. There's some type of budget attached to that — we will work within that."

Dombrowski went on to say that he does not believe the team is one piece away from competing for a World Series, and they do not want to sacrifice longterm success for short-term success — a statement that helps clarify the assumptions of many that he would make splashy blockbuster moves like he did in previous stints in Boston and Detroit. But how much wiggle room is there for adding payroll to a team that was near the top in spending in 2020 and had nothing to show for it?

"I wouldn't expect it to be at that same amount as last year," Dombrowski said. "John [Middleton], when I talk to him and from what I've heard from individuals, I know where it is now. There is flexibility to do things, I think we will look at each move in an intelligent fashion and assess from there."

It would be hard to argue that bringing back J.T. Realmuto would not be one of those intelligent moves. And thankfully, Dombrowski knows letting the catcher slip away in free agency would be a horrible misstep. 

"Everyone in the organization loves J.T.," he said. "I think there's a unanimous feeling they'd like to bring him back, a lot of us have dealt with free agent markets in the past — can you get something like that done? I am really not sure."

Philadelphia also will have an equally daunting challenge in fixing the worst bullpen in history. Dombrowski, who also revealed he battled COVID-19 last month, told media members that he plans to "be aggressive in adding arms and hopefully we'll be successful." Get ready for a steady stream of fringe moves bringing bullpen talent to spring training.

The Phillies will head into the new year with the 13th best odds to win the World Series, at +3000 according to's consensus odds. It would be reasonable to expect those odds to improve as Dombrowski molds the Phillies into a full roster for the upcoming season.

Dombrowski, 64, sounds like he'll be calling the shots this offseason, and is in no rush to add a GM to the Phils' organizational chart, if at all. He plans on letting demoted former GM Matt Klentak consult and weigh in on decisions as well as interim GM Ned Rice, but also will consider brining some of his own folks to Philly as well.

With the Winter Meetings in the rearview, there could be an uptick in offseason MLB activity soon. Stay tuned.

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