The Phillies got their guy. Loudly on the hunt for a veteran executive – for a personality big enough to match their sense of urgency – the Philadelphia Phillies coaxed two-time World Series winner Dave Dombrowski to leave his position in Nashville and answer the call.
The news broke yesterday, but today, the organization formally announced Dombrowski as their first-ever President of Baseball Operations. He signed for four years and $20MM, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca points out, that’s the most money handed out to a free agent so far this winter.
Dombrowski comes heavily decorated. He won the World Series in 1997 with the Marlins and in 2018 with the Red Sox. He built two pennant winners with the Detroit Tigers (2006, 2012). He has 31 total years of experience running an MLB franchise, and he’s the only general manager in MLB history to lead three different franchises to the World Series. That’s quite the feather in his cap. He’s also the only two-time winner of Baseball America’s Executive of the Year award.
In the press release, managing partner John Middleton said this of Dombrowski:
This is a great day for the Philadelphia Phillies. David Dombrowski is one of the most accomplished executives this great game has ever seen, and we are thrilled to welcome him to Philadelphia. Between David and Joe Girardi, we now have two of the best people in place to set us on the path back to where we want to be, and that is the postseason and contending for world championships.
Interestingly, the press release also made special mention of Dombrowski’s track record of success in the draft, listing Rondell White, Cliff Floyd, Charles Johnson, Cameron Maybin, Mark Kotsay, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Verlander, Nicholas Castellanos, Josh Beckett, Andrew Miller, and Rick Porcello among the standouts. That’s noteworthy particularly in the context of previous comments made by team president Andy MacPhail back in October when they began their search, per the Athletic’s Matt Gelb. :
Our R&D department has been good with one exception. I’m just being blunt. I look at Tampa. They’re able to unlock the hidden value or potential in minor-league players that have been around a while that they recognize something that we’re not picking up on yet. I think that’s one thing that this franchise needs to improve on. Our R&D needs to obviously help with that.
Specifically, the Phillies were seeking someone with a track record of success in player evaluation. For more insight into Philadelphia’s thinking, let’s take a cue from Brad Pitt in Moneyball: What’s the problem? As Gelb helpfully reminds us, at the time of former GM Matt Klentak’s reassignment, Middleton said this:
I think the problem the Phillies have had for a hundred years is they don’t evaluate talent well.
Dombrowski’s win-now mentality is getting headline treatment, with assumptions being made about the free agent dollars Dombrowki will spend and the prospects he will trade away. The Phillies themselves, however, are underlining some other aspects of Dombrowski’s resume. Player evaluation plays a role in every aspect of roster building, of course. Still, it’s intriguing that system building has been at the forefront of Philly’s messaging in the early going.
Dombrowski will answer questions from the media this afternoon.