‘Retool,’ not ‘rebuild’ awaits Dombrowski, Phillies

Dave Dombrowski Phillies
New Phillies president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Out of almost nothing, the Philadelphia Phillies found their new president of baseball operations in veteran front-office man, Dave Dombrowski, who most recently led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title in 2018 at the same position.

While the Phillies were able to bring on a proven, established name to stabilize a front office that has been very much in flux since Matt Klentak stepped down as general manager in October, the move to bring on Dombrowski raised plenty of questions.

The 64-year-old is known as a “win-now” kind of executive that is not afraid to flash cash and deal the farm to get a winning product on the field as soon as possible.

The problem is that he’s entering the fold within an organization that has lost a reported $145 million because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has experienced a turbulent offseason in which rumors arose about not being able to retain free-agent All-Star catcher JT Realmuto while trying to trade starting pitcher Zack Wheeler for financial relief.

Dombrowski attempted to provide some clarity on the situation.

“I know [owner John Middleton] wants to win. We have flexibility of finances,” Dombrowski said. “But when I say that, I don’t think it’s unlimited amount of funds. You always realize there’s some type of budget attached to that. We will work within that. But we’re also more — we want to win this year.”

That being said, the Phillies might not have as high a payroll as they’ve had in recent years.

“I wouldn’t expect it to be at that same amount just last year,” Dombrowski said. “There’s flexibility to do things. But I think we’ll look at each and every move in an intelligent fashion.

“I don’t look at this as a situation where we’re one player away from winning. I think we need to do a few things with this team. And I really don’t want to be sacrificing people that might be part of our future success for short-term gains if it’s not the difference-maker.”

That might be music to a lot of Phillies fans’ ears considering this team hasn’t made the postseason in nine years. But this is still a team that features the likes of Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, and Rhys Hoskins.

“I consider a retool, not a rebuild, for sure,” Dombrowski said. “There’s too many good players on the club.

“[They’re] sort of a sleeping giant because they’ve got a big market. And they’ve got a good, solid owner that wants to spend money to win.”

Dombrowski’s offseason checklist is likely too expansive to properly address in one swoop this offseason. They need starting-pitching depth behind Nola and Wheeler, bullpen help for one of the worst units in MLB history, help up the middle at second base and shortstop, and they have to address the plan behind the plate; whether that means bringing Realmuto back or finding an alternative option.

“It’s the passionate East Coast baseball city, right? Quick to boo if things don’t work but great to cheer,” Dombrowski said. “So there’s a lot of upside potential. But then, I will also say that over the last handful, half a dozen years, whatever it is, you sort of scratch your head and say, ‘Gee, I wonder why they’re not winning?'”

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