The Phillies made it official on Friday and announced that Dave Dombrowski has been hired as the first president of baseball operations in team history. The move was first reported by Jayson Stark on Thursday afternoon.
The Phillies have hired longtime major league executive David Dombrowski as the club’s first-ever president of baseball operations. pic.twitter.com/8lqlw48Yzt— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) December 11, 2020
Dombrowski has been a front office executive since 1987 when he was named director of player development for the Montreal Expos. He is a two time World Series champion, winning in 1997 with the Marlins and 2018 with the Red Sox. Dombrowski is known as a win-now GM. He is notorious for spending big in free agency and making blockbuster trades. His teams have frequently seen quick turnarounds and almost immediate success.
However, the flip side of that is his teams were often left in shambles after winning, saddled with albatross contracts and barren farm systems. Dombrowski usually foregoes long-term, sustained success for immediate results. A clear example of this is the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers under Dombrowski boasted a rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Jordan Zimmerman at one point. They had triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and a young J.D. Martinez in their lineup.
Under Dombrowski’s leadership, the Tigers won the American League Central four consecutive times, made four ALCS appearances including three in a row, and two American League pennants. They never achieved their ultimate goal though, with a historically bad bullpen being their Achilles’ heel at their height. Dombrowski was released in 2015 and the Tigers have been rebuilding ever since.
Dombrowski’s fit in Philadelphia
Principal Owner John Middleton has made it known that he wants the Phillies to win. But, they have recently pushed a desire to cut spending. They have as of yet to show they are willing to go over the luxury tax, despite Middleton claiming he would do so if it meant winning a championship.
Dombrowski’s arrival is in direct contrast with what the Phillies have done so far this season. His whole M.O. is to spend big and raze farm systems to bring in premier talent for short-term success. The Phillies are cutting costs and don’t have a deep farm to trade from. So what do they expect Dombrowski to do?
All about the money
The success of this hire is dependent on Middleton’s desire to spend. If Dombrowski is given an open checkbook, the Phillies could, in theory, immediately vault into real postseason contention. Dombrowski was able to build a juggernaut in Boston using the Red Sox deep pockets. However, when owner John Henry pulled the plug, the Red Sox tumbled and are now in the early years of an arduous rebuild.
But, this could go sideways very fast if the Phillies keep to their word of lowering payroll. Dombrowski isn’t a strong player developer. He isn’t who you would want to build a long term winner as Middleton has previously expressed desire for. Dombrowski’s ceiling is a three to five year run of dominance and contention followed by a five-plus year rebuild. You sacrifice sustained success for immediate results. If Dombrowski isn’t allowed to use spending might, you can shorten the contention window and extend the rebuild window.
Big Names from the Past
The Dombrowski hire is similar to the Joe Girardi hire in one aspect. Both men were big names over five years ago who were brought in partially because of that name recognition. Both have successful resumes but have been on the outside looking in for a few years.
The Phillies interviewed younger candidates such as Thad Levine and Josh Byrnes but ultimately wound up with Dombrowski. Dombrowski was in Nashville getting involved in the movement to possible bring a team there. Reports were he wasn’t necessarily eager to leave, which suggests the Phillies had to do some convincing. He was seemingly high on their list from the start.
What to expect immediately
Dombrowski is a dramatic upgrade over Andy MacPhail at a bare minimum. At least he has had success within the lifetime of the Phillies current core. The Phillies will most likely be players in free agency and be connected to every big name trade candidate. The extent of each is ultimately up to John Middleton. Does Middleton want that patented short term success or that long term sustainability he has been preaching? Will he allow Dombrowski the level of spending he has had in the past?
The Phillies finally have a direction. Dombrowski comes with a clear vision in his mind: win now and deal with the consequences. The Phillies were sorely lacking a clear short or long term vision, so at least their seems to be one now. But, to be determined if the Phillies allow him the resources to carry that vision or if it is even the right one.
Below is the most recent episode of The Checkdown on The Painted Lines YouTube channel which features immediate reaction to the Dombrowski news