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December 11, 2020

What they're saying: Phillies are back on track with Dave Dombrowski heading front office

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Dave-Dombrowski-Phillies_121120_USAT Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

Say what you want about Dave Dombrowski, the man expected to be named the Phillies next president of baseball operations — he's been successful in that position around the league despite his lacking in the same star power that had everyone drooling over Theo Epstein — but it appears the Phillies finally got something right.

Hiring someone, anyone to be the leader of their front office as it ponders exactly how to approach the 2020-21 offseason was a smart move, and now the team can start actually negotiating on trades and contracts as the offseason begins to heat up (I mean, it would have to heat up sometime, wouldn't it?).

So was this a good hire for Philly? And what happens next? Will they go all out and try to sign J.T. Realmuto now? Shed salary as rumors have suggested in previous weeks?

According to TheLines.com, Philly has the 13th best odds of winning the World Series in 2021 at this point in the offseason (+3000). Is anything going to improve that?

We've jumped around the Internet to the most respectable media outlets covering the Phillies and assembled their takes on the above questions in hopes that it may illuminate the strategy of the team going forward, or what kind of expectation Phillies fans should have going forward. Here's what they're saying...

Win now

Jim Salisbury | NBC Sports Philly

First we'll address the most pressing question from Phillies fans. Is last week's fire sale scare, where rumors of trading Jean Segura, Zack Wheeler and even Aaron Nola surfaced, a thing of the past? Will the Phils try and bring together a few needed pieces to try and win in 2021?

NBCSP's Salisbury, a pretty well connected beat writer for the team, seems to think the hiring of Dombrowski puts an end to the rebuild speculation.

Not that there was any serious thought given to it, but if there was even a kernel of an idea that the Phils might drift back into another rebuild, this hire ends that.

"You don't bring in a Dave Dombrowski unless you're trying to win a championship," a veteran member of the baseball industry said.

That said, this Phillies team has holes and it might take more than what's left of this offseason to fill them, especially with the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic. The Phillies might not contend in 2021, but they'll be expected to make strides and you can bet Dombrowski will pull out all the stops trying to get Middleton's bleeping trophy back once he gets a handle on the organization, makes the changes he sees fit up and down the baseball operation and fills some holes.  [NBCSP]

It's all about talent

Bob Brookover | Philadelphia Inquirer

Not surprisingly, the biggest appeal of Dombrowski is his ability to find talent, and to know what to do with it. The Phillies have had a vacuum of good homegrown players of late, Aaron Nola and a very few select others not withstanding. The Phillies new front office chief has shown he has that ability in prior stints that have led him to the World Series four times and won him rings twice. 

Here's more on the previous achievements for Dombrowski, from the Inquirer's Brookover, who is supportive of the Phillies' most recent move:

He was in charge of the Marlins when they signed Miguel Cabrera as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 1999 and he was in charge of the Tigers when they traded for Cabrera eight years later. He was in charge of the Tigers when they got Curtis Granderson as a third-round draft choice in 2002 and seven years later he used him as a trade chip to acquire Max Scherzer from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He was in charge of the Tigers when they took Justin Verlander with the second overall pick in 2004. James McCann, the most sought-after catcher not named J.T. Realmuto on this year’s free-agent market, was a second-round pick of Detroit’s in 2011. Dombrowski’s final drafts in Detroit included its share of misses, but he moved on and was charged with rejuvenating a Red Sox team that had finished last two straight seasons when Boston owner John Henry hired him to take control of baseball operations late in 2015.

Dombrowski accomplished that mission in 2018 as the Red Sox won 108 regular-season games before going 11-3 in the postseason. Dombrowski’s blockbuster trades for closer Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale and the signing of free-agent designated hitter J.D. Martinez helped get the team over the top.  [Inquirer.com]

A mandate to lead

Matt Gelb | The Athletic

With no real direction or previous success of which to speak, it's pretty apparent that Dombrowski has a mandate to lead the Phillies behind the scenes and is expected to bring in a GM underneath him.

Like with any big change, there is just as much risk as there is reward. Dombrowski has an equal track record of losing and winning. Here's more on the move from another tenured Phillies beat writer:

The question, in 2021, is whether those tactics are still useful. By the end of his tenure in Boston, which resulted in a World Series title in 2018, the front office was not functional. He inherited a baseball operations enterprise that had done things a certain way under Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington, then kept the people in place who had been installed by those progressive leaders, and it all led to a disjointed structure when money couldn’t patch the holes.

It also won them all rings.

For Middleton, the club’s managing partner, the most pressing question should have sounded something like this: Does what made Dombrowski successful 15 years ago (with the Tigers) and five years ago (in Boston) equip him today to be successful? Were the Phillies chasing a name or a vision? If the industry is predicated on innovation, the Phillies have voted for a return to convention. That might be advantageous, given how the hedge-fund groupthink that permeates the sport hasn’t always benefited from it. Different for the sake of being different might work. It might not.  [The Athletic]

Players for free agents?

Mark Feinsand | MLB.com

J.T. Realmuto. He's the prize and the Phillies seem to be barely dipping their toes in the water to bring him back. Will a new regime be aggressive not only to sign the All-Star catcher, but also players to sign and trade for the top targets in baseball right now?

As we can kind of decipher from the takes above, Dombrowski is a guy who tries to win, not a Sam Hinkie rebuild savant. He is known mostly for making splashy blockbuster acquisitions. His addition to the Phillies changes things not only in Philly but also across the NL East, as teams may have been taking for granted that the Phillies would be worse in 2021. That may not be true anymore. 

Or maybe it will be. The Phillies have few prospects they could include in a splashy blockbuster deal, and could be curbing their spending. 

It could go either way.

While Dombrowski’s arrival could be a sign that Phillies managing partner John Middleton is willing to spend money for a player of Realmuto’s magnitude, don’t expect an immediate spending spree even if the club brings the catcher back.

According to sources, the Phillies still plan to shed some payroll this offseason, so the prospect of Dombrowski getting ultra-aggressive this winter seems unlikely. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Phillies won’t be a player in free agency (or in the trade market if a costly player becomes available) in the near future.

“I doubt Dave agrees to come on if there’s no money,” one AL executive said.

Philadelphia wants the 64-year-old Dombrowski to build a consistent winner, though, as previously noted, he does have a history of trading away prospects for proven big league players.  [MLB.com]

Beat the Mets

Ken Davidoff | NY Post

We would be remiss if we didn't include some schadenfreude for Phillies fans. The Mets are riding high after finally seeing their team sold to an owner committed to winning. Interestingly, at least according to New York Post columnist Ken Davidoff, the Phillies' decision to bring Dombrowski into the division is seen as a threat to the Mets' attempt to get back into the winner's circle.

What Dombrowski’s stunning arrival in Philadelphia does, however, is aggravate Cohen’s mission to bring the World Series trophy to Queens in the next 3-5 years. Because you won’t find a longer, better baseball ops track record in the industry. And because the Phillies found themselves in the odd position of having an owner willing to spend what it takes to win (if not during these tough economic times, then big-picture) and a manager in Joe Girardi who knows how to win with a void in their front office, after they reassigned previous GM Matt Klentak.

Void filled, authoritatively. And just like that, the Mets face another fully loaded foe alongside the two-time defending NL East winners in the Braves and the last full-season champs in the Nationals as well as Derek Jeter’s Marlins, who are coming off their first playoff appearance in 17 years.  [NY Post]

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