A bunch of thoughts and observations as the Phillies get set to hand the reins of their baseball operation to veteran executive Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski, 64, has held the role of general manager or president of baseball operations with the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox.
He has won two World Series, in Florida in 1997 and Boston in 2018. His Detroit teams made the World Series in 2006 and 2012.
Pat Gillick came to Philadelphia with two World Series titles, won another with the Phillies and ended up in Cooperstown.
Andy MacPhail also came to Philadelphia with two World Series titles. He did not preside over a winning team in his five-plus years as club president and is likely nearing the end of his time with the Phillies.
The Phillies are hoping Dombrowski follows the Gillick model.
Dombrowski is business-like, serious and confident. He's a lot more old-school than new-school, more of a scouting and "feel" guy than an analytics guy. He fits what managing partner John Middleton said he was looking for after Matt Klentak was stripped of his general manager's duties back in October.
"It's the acquisition and the development of talent that is critical, so I'll be looking for people who have proven that they can do that," Middleton said at the time. "That's where my target is."
Analytics are part of the game these days and they're not going away — especially in Philadelphia, where ownership has spent millions building that part of the franchise and the manager, Joe Girardi, is probably more devoted to the data than he lets on.
Dombrowski is smart enough to be open-minded and incorporate analytics into his decision-making — but he'll be the guy making the final calls on roster construction.
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.
WHAT ABOUT J.T.?
Re-signing popular free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto remains an issue/potential expenditure that will probably be handled at the ownership level, but Dombrowski has always been one who likes stars. He traded for Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, David Price and Chris Sale.
The Phillies are just going to have to wait things out and see where Realmuto's market goes. It's far from a slam dunk that he returns but certainly not out of the question.
Yes, Dombrowski has them. All baseball executives do because human beings aren't machines and sometimes things don't go right when you bet on them.
Dombrowski is aggressive. When he smells a title, he goes for it, even if it means ripping apart a farm system and unloading prospects. Win the title and it's worth it. Don't win and you could be looking at some rough years down the road, as has happened in Detroit.
Dombrowski is also aggressive in handing out big contracts. The deals he gave Sale, Price and Nathan Eovaldi in Boston constrained the Red Sox' payroll and contributed to the team's trading of superstar Mookie Betts. The eight-year, $240 million deal he gave Cabrera in Detroit has become an albatross — with three years still remaining.
In Philadelphia, Dombrowski will not be immediately blessed with a fertile farm system from which to spend and the team already has its big contract in right field.
The guy has thick skin and he's accountable. He's known for making just about every road trip with the team and is accessible to reporters before games. That's much different than the previous regime.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
Dombrowski was on every list of potential candidates back in October and the Phillies were very interested in him from the beginning. However, attempts to get Dombrowski interested in the job went nowhere because he was committed to working with a group trying to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville.
The Phillies moved on, interviewed the likes of Thad Levine, Josh Byrnes and Michael Hill. They considered proven executives like Ned Colletti, Brian Sabean and Dan Duquette.
Periodically, the Phillies checked in with Dombrowski. Every time, he was still committed to Nashville.
The Phils became very impressed with Levine, but he didn't want to leave Minnesota.
They made one more call to Dombrowski in recent days. He said, "Let's talk."
THE PR VALUE
From another losing season and nine straight years of no playoffs to a quiet winter in the transactions column to budget cuts caused by pandemic-related revenue losses to the Realmuto drama to not moving quickly in filling the leader of baseball ops position, the Phillies have been hammered by critics and frustrated fans for a couple of months now. Lately, the criticism has gotten louder and more stinging with the team being called "rudderless."
Dombrowski will make that adjective go away.
WHAT WILL THE FRONT OFFICE STRUCTURE LOOK LIKE?
Dombrowski will be president of baseball operations. He will likely bring in a general manager under him. But make no mistake, this will be his show. He'll be the guy out in front.
With MacPhail's contract expiring in a year, executive vice president Dave Buck is likely to ascend to club president on the business side in the near future.
WHEN WILL THE HIRING BE OFFICIAL?
There could be an announcement as soon as Friday.