December 10, 2020
According to multiple reports, the Phillies' search for a new leader atop its front office could be nearing an end. The team is in deep discussions with Dave Dombrowski to name him their new president of baseball operations.
Jayson Stark of The Athletic was first to report the news.
The Phillies began their search shortly after the season ended when they demoted general manager Matt Klentak. It seemed the process would continue to drag on after two candidates recently withdrew their names from consideration. Now it appears to be headed toward a surprising conclusion. Here's more from Stark:
[The Phillies] are in the advanced stages of serious talks to hire Dave Dombrowski, a man who built World Series teams in three different cities, to be their next president of baseball operations, sources told The Athletic.
In his last turn running a major-league front office, Dombrowski was the architect of the 2018 Red Sox team that won 108 games in the regular season, beat two 100-win teams in October and then toppled the Dodgers in the World Series. But he was fired less than 11 months later after clashing with ownership over the future course of the franchise. [theathletic.com]
That last part is interesting, especially since the Phillies are at a bit of a crossroads themselves following a failed rebuild over the past five years. The team could look to try another soft reset around Bryce Harper and Aaron Nola this offseason.
Unfortunately, life in the time of COVID-19 has put a financial strain on the Phillies, and they likely won't be able to undergo wholesale changes in just one year.
Still, the Phillies were able to lure Dombrowski out of Nashville, where he was working with the city to bring in an MLB franchise of their own. According to reports, Dombrowski originally turned down the Phillies (and others), but owner John Middleton reached out again this week and the 64-year-old executive seemed a little more interested in a return to an MLB front office.
But sources say that Phillies managing general partner John Middleton approached Dombrowski again this week, after two candidates – the Twins’ Thad Levine and the Dodgers’ Josh Byrnes – withdrew their names from consideration. This time, after a series of conversations with Middleton and Phillies president Andy MacPhail, Dombrowski decided the Phillies’ job was an attractive enough option to revisit.
From that point, according to a source who spoke with Dombrowski, the two sides began talking continuously over the next several days and were described, by Thursday afternoon, as having made significant progress toward a deal. Assuming that agreement doesn’t unravel at the last minute, the Phillies are about to hand the keys to their franchise to one of the most accomplished front-office figures of the last 30 years. [theathletic.com]
Perhaps it's not surprising that the Phillies are suddenly in a rush to get someone in the building who can steady the ship following a week in which numerous reports had to be refuted by club, including one that they were fielding offers for last year's big offseason acquisition, Zack Wheeler.
Dombrowski, one of the most successful executives in baseball, has led three teams to the World Series (Red Sox, Tigers and Marlins). More importantly, he won titles with two of them (Miami in 1997 and Boston in 2018). Per Stark, he's one of just five MLB presidents or general managers to do that. More impressive, perhaps, is the fact that he did it more than two decades apart.
What makes this move confusing for the Phillies specifically is the way in which Dombrowski built those teams. Not necessarily known for developing inexpensive talent from within, he's instead created contenders by signing big-name players and making splashy moves, which often involved trading away the prospects he did develop. It's currently hard to envision that philosophy working for the Phillies, as their farm system is pretty bare to begin with. It's also hard to see Middleton spending big money given the statements that have been coming out of the organization.
If Dombrowski intends to bring that same approach to the Phillies, he must believe one of two things: that the Phillies are closer to contending than many on the outside believe — after nine straight seasons without a playoff berth — or that Middleton might be willing to open his checkbook this offseason to bring in some players to get them over the hump.
Either way, this should make for an interesting offseason for the local ball club.
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