In consecutive years, the Phillies have hired two of the most accomplished people available to be their manager and president of baseball operations.
Between them, Joe Girardi and Dave Dombrowski have six World Series rings.
Dombrowski, who presided over World Series titles in Florida (1997) and Boston (2018), became the team’s top baseball official on Friday and by Monday had already spent significant time going over the team with Girardi, who won three World Series as a player with the Yankees and another as their manager before coming to Philadelphia as skipper a year ago.
“Dave and I have already had a number of phone calls, three of four hours,” Girardi said Monday.
The two baseball lifers have crossed paths many times over the years, so they don’t need to spend a lot of time on pleasantries.
The Phillies suffered a collapse down the stretch in the 60-game 2020 season and extended their string without a winning season or postseason berth to nine years, longest in the National League.
Save the "Hey, how you doin's?"
There’s a lot of work to do.
“Dave is well aware that we have areas we need to address,” Girardi said. “Obviously, we lost our shortstop and we lost our catcher. We’ve had struggles in our bullpen and he’s well aware of that. A lot of that will come down to what our payroll is going to be. You just don’t have endless amounts of money to spend and that's a lot of it."
If you have to pick one area that kept the Phillies out of the playoffs in 2020 — and led to the ouster of GM Matt Klentak — it would be the bullpen.
The Philllies lost a major league-high 21 games in which they had a lead at one point. The bullpen’s ERA was 7.06, the worst in the majors since 1930.
Girardi still winces when he thinks of what happened with the bullpen in 2020.
“I was talking to – golly, I don't remember who it was the other day – and I said, I really believe that we could have told the hitters what was coming and it wouldn't have turned out as bad as it did,” he said. “I really do. It was just one of those years where nothing seemed to go right. It wasn't like we just had a bunch of kids that had never experienced anything. These were guys that were experienced and had been successful. And it just didn't go right.”
During his introduction Zoom conference with reporters on Friday, Dombrowski indicated that addressing the bullpen would be his priority. He said he would be “aggressive” adding arms and indicated a fondness for the idea of having a lockdown closer.
Girardi confirmed that the bullpen was a priority for Dombrowski.
“Well, I think the bullpen is a big focus,” Girardi said.
From closers to setup men to middle-innings depth, the free agent market is teeming with available relievers from top of the market closers such as Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand and Alex Colome to next level guys like Trevor Rosenthal, Blake Treinen, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Archie Bradley, Kirby Yates and others. Dombrowski traded for Greene when he was with Detroit in 2015.
Dombrowski can’t stop at the bullpen. The Phils have a hole behind the plate with just one big league-ready catcher – Andrew Knapp – on the roster, and the middle infield is thin and prime for an upgrade.
As it stands today, Jean Segura and Scott Kingery are the shortstop and second baseman – or the second baseman and shortstop, depending on how it lines up. It’s likely the Phils will still look for a defensive upgrade at shortstop and possibly in center field. Filling all those holes on a tight budget will require creativity, but Dombrowski has shown that in his career and he’s never been afraid to make a trade.
As for that hole behind the plate, the Phillies have called re-signing J.T. Realmuto a priority. They will continue to monitor the free-agent’s market. One potential landing spot for Realmuto dried up when the Mets signed James McCann over the weekend. The Nationals, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros and Angels could all still be fits for Realmuto, but the Phils can’t be ruled out at this stage of the offseason. While it’s true that Dombrowski now reigns over Phillies baseball matters, determining whether or not to re-sign Realmuto would be a financial decision that would extend to the ownership level.