Dec. 11: The Phillies have announced the deal.
Dec. 10: The Phillies are in “advanced stages” of talks to hire Dave Dombrowski as their new president of baseball ops, reports the Athletic’s Jayson Stark. Dombrowski has the job, Jon Heyman of MLB Network confirms.
This news come as a surprise. Dombrowski had been linked to the Angels’ front office position, but he was said to be content in his role with the Nashville group. Apparently, the role in Philadelphia was appealing enough to lure him from his responsibilities working to bring baseball back to Nashville.
Dombrowski boasts four successful runs with four different franchises throughout his illustrious career, which began in 1988 when he was elevated to the position of general manager for the Montreal Expos. Dombrowski went from farm director to assistant GM to general manager in the span of three years, matching the term length he’d end up with as the frontman in Montreal (1988-1991). From there, he went south to architect the Marlins run from expansion team to World Champion in 1997. He stayed in Florida from 1992 until 2001. From there, he rejuvenated a long-troubled Tigers franchise. He took Detroit to the World Series twice from 2002 to 2015 before leaving to join the Boston Red Sox.
With Boston, Dombrowski left a legacy of handing out large contracts to veteran players and running up a luxury tax bill – but his contribution was much more nuanced. His single-minded purpose to win and willingness to spend go against the fashionable trends of the day, and ownership didn’t appreciate the direction he was moving the team in 2019. That said, he has a history of successful trades, including in Boston where he sent out prospects to add Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Craig Kimbrel en route to winning the 2018 World Series. Despite the ring, Dombrowski was removed from his role in September 2019.
The Phillies have been looking for a new decision-maker since re-assigning Matt Klentak from his role as general manager. If there was any uncertainty about who was running things in Philadelphia, the hierarchy is now clear. Dombrowski is a hand-on executive who has enough experience in the game to set a clear direction.
Dombrowski’s history in the win-now tradition blends well with Philly’s stated direction. He not only matches the Phillies’ competitive ethos, but he’s about as accomplished an executive as exists in the game, having taken three different franchises to the World Series.
Assuming this hire goes through, it’s certainly a statement hire and a big win for what the Phillies were hoping to accomplish. But Dombrowski enters a fraught situation. He’s faced immediately with the J.T. Realmuto question – a pricey free agent that it hurts to lose. Dombrowski will have his work cut out for him in Philadelphia.
Still, alignment between ownership and the front office goes a long way to establishing the type of culture that wins World Series. Managing partner John Middleton clearly thirsts to bring a winner back to Philly, and he’s been walking the walk, beginning with the signing of Bryce Harper to a monster 13-year, $330MM contact. Middleton has put his money on the line, but the spending hasn’t spawned enough victories. The Phillies have been unable to get back to the postseason since their run of five consecutive postseason appearances ended in 2012.