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The Philadelphia Phillies’ effort to make over their front office and make good on a long rebuild has ended in a surprising place — with Dave Dombrowski, the two-time World Series-winning executive, joining the team as president of baseball operations.
It’s a surprise move because Dombrowski has been away from big-league baseball since the Boston Red Sox fired him in 2019. In that time, he committed himself to help bring an MLB team to Nashville and said as recently as last month that he wasn’t interested in another MLB front office job.
The prospect of getting the Phillies back to World Series glory, it turned out, made Dombrowski change his mind. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark originally reported Thursday that Dombroski was close to getting the job, while Jon Heyman of MLB Network later tweeted it was a done deal. And on Friday, the Phillies made it official.
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
But just a month ago, Dombrowski told The Athletic, when asked about potential jobs in Anaheim, New York, Miami or Philly:
“I’m staying in Nashville,” Dombrowski said. “I gave the individual here (John Loar, the head of Music City Baseball) a commitment when I moved here that as we continue to pursue a new team — expansion, relocation or if it goes nowhere — that I would stay here with them.”
Even before this, the Phillies were having a puzzling offseason. GM Matt Klentak, who had been in that job since 2015, stepped down but remained in the organization. Meanwhile, team president Andy MacPhail said he wouldn’t return to the job once his contract expired after 2021 and would even be open to leaving earlier if ownership found a replacement.
The Phillies also had J.T. Realmuto hitting free agency as one of the most sought-after players on the market. Fans and teammates — particularly Bryce Harper — want Realmuto back, but ownership wants to cut back on costs. They entered the week of the virtual winter meetings with none of this resolved and questions only mounting.
Adding Dombrowski to this situation makes everything far more interesting. He is a proven money-spending, star-chasing executive for whom “cutting back on costs” isn’t really in the playbook. Re-signing Realmuto is exactly the type of thing Dombrowski would do.
Dombrowski’s last two jobs were with the Red Sox, with whom he won a World Series in 2018, and the Tigers, with whom he won four straight AL Central titles and went to the World Series twice. Both times he left after getting teams to the ultimate prize (or close to it) with lots of bloated contracts in his wake. He also won a World Series in 1997 with the Florida Marlins.
This is what the Phillies are getting in Dombrowski, a proven winner who isn’t shy about doling out big money. If they intend to win their first World Series since 2009 after spending big on Harper and Zack Wheeler in recent years, Dombrowski can get them there. But something will seemingly have to budge between his style and Phillies ownership wanting to cut costs in 2021.
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