During a zoom call with reporters this afternoon (which was also streamed live on MLB.com), new Phillies president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski spoke on a number of different topics, including the timeline of his hiring and some of the plans for the organization moving forward. Here are some highlights…
- On the timeline of this hiring: Team president and longtime friend Andy MacPhail reached out to Dombrowski on Saturday to try and connect him with Phillies managing partner John Middleton. The Phillies had been one of the clubs to contact Dombrowski early in the offseason, but he wasn’t interested at that time. What changed was that he was given some new information from the commissioner’s office, who recently told Dombrowski and the Nashville group that expansion wasn’t going to happen for a couple of years. With that timeline pushed back, Dombrowski decided to take Middleton’s call. They spoke on Tuesday, and by Wednesday they were coming to an agreement.
- On immediate plans for free agency: Dombrowski doesn’t anticipate making wholesale changes in the organization right now. He repeated that his preference is to get to know the people currently installed within the organization, gauge their roles and responsibilities, strengths and so on before making any significant changes. The organization does plan to cut payroll from last season, which pours water on the idea that Dombrowski would run right over to sign J.T. Realmuto or anyone else to a monster contract.
- On the whole, Dombrowski came across as very measured and patient in his approach. “I don’t think anyone thinks we’re a player away,” Dombrowski said of the Phillies, who are stuck in a nine-year playoff drought. When presented with the question of rebuild or retool, he unequivocally categorized the roster as a retooling situation.
- On his trading record: Asked about a trade from his rearview that he regrets, Dombrowski mentioned dealing former Tigers infield prospect Eugenio Suarez to the Reds for righty Alfredo Simon – a transaction that occurred six years ago today. The thinking was that the Tigers had depth in the infield, and they needed an affordable starter. He also made a point to say that he’s “a big believer in young players.”
- Clearly aware of his reputation as a wheeler and dealer, Dombrowski seemed to want to reset the record, at least to give him time to read reports, watch video, and get to know the organization. Trades made in the past, he noted, were more about matching value and team needs at the time, not as much about an inherent mistrust of young players. If he can trade for a player he likes, while giving up players he and the rest of his front office are less high on, that’s a given. But there are also times – like the Chris Sale trade in Boston – where Dombrowski knew he was giving up talented players. Sale, however, fit the timeline and scale of talent the Red Sox needed.
- On relocating to Philadelphia: Dombrowski said that he’s planning to stay where he is for now, as nobody from the organization is going into the office. He also noted that he contracted COVID-19 about a month ago, and while it was not an easy process, he is fully recovered.
- Lastly, to help build the GM profile, here are some quick-and-dirty strategic preferences Dombrowski noted. He’s on board with exit velocity and launch angles, but he still prefers hitters who use all fields. Dombrowski understands and agrees with the move away from stolen bases, but he’s not on the far end of that spectrum – he can still appreciate a stolen base or two. The closer mentality is not a myth, but nor is it unwise to use an arm in a high-leverage spot if that’s a manager’s preference. Dombrowski used to believe in building a bullpen around a closer and a setup man, but now depth is an important element. He has always believed in pitching and power arms. Don’t expect the Phillies to move to openers anytime soon, as he still aims for his starters to go seven innings, pitch count allowing.