How Dombrowski hire could affect FA market

December 11th, 2020

The Phillies have decided on Dave Dombrowski to lead their baseball operations department, bringing in an experienced executive who has had success with every club he has run during his career. The hire became official on Friday.

“I like it for them,” an American League executive said. “He has succeeded everywhere.”

That success has come in similar fashion in Florida, Detroit and Boston: Spend money on free agents, trade prospects for established veterans and take a “win now” approach on an annual basis. Dombrowski is the only executive in history to guide three different franchises to the World Series.

“[The hire] makes sense, given all that he’s accomplished,” a National League executive said. “But he’s typically a guy who trades away the farm to win, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. His résumé speaks for itself.”

Catching is clearly the most pressing need for the Phillies, who have been trying to re-sign All-Star backstop following his two-year stint in Philadelphia.

“I’m guessing they sign Realmuto,” said an AL exec.

While Dombrowski’s arrival could be a sign that Phillies managing partner John Middleton is willing to spend money for a player of Realmuto’s magnitude, don’t expect an immediate spending spree even if the club brings the catcher back.

According to sources, the Phillies still plan to shed some payroll this offseason, so the prospect of Dombrowski getting ultra-aggressive this winter seems unlikely. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Phillies won’t be a player in free agency (or in the trade market if a costly player becomes available) in the near future.

“I doubt Dave agrees to come on if there’s no money,” one AL executive said.

Philadelphia wants the 64-year-old Dombrowski to build a consistent winner, though, as previously noted, he does have a history of trading away prospects for proven big league players.

The Phillies’ farm system is ranked 23rd by MLB Pipeline, though the organization has three Top 100 prospects (No. 28, right-hander ; No. 82, shortstop ; and No. 84, right-hander ) could be used to bring back established veterans.

Could the arrival of Dombrowski prompt some other teams -- namely the Mets -- to act more aggressively in the weeks ahead? New York appears focused on signing to be its new catcher, but with the Phillies potentially back in on Realmuto, might the Mets try to counter with moves for or -- or both?

Could agents who have a history of getting deals done with Dombrowski suddenly try to sell their clients to the Phillies? Relationships matter in this business, and very few executives have the number of relationships Dombrowski does from his decades in the game.

It is unclear whether the Phillies plan to bring back following his 2019 domestic violence suspension, a move that would give them a potential starter in center field. Former general manager Matt Klentak called the decision not to include Herrera in the 60-man player pool an “organizational decision,” so Dombrowski will have to determine Herrera’s future with the Phillies before deciding whether to pursue a new center fielder via trade or free agency.

Should Dombrowski opt to acquire a center fielder, could be on his radar, as the two were together in Boston during Dombrowski’s tenure with the Red Sox.

The bullpen will surely be another focal point for Dombrowski once he assumes control, as the Phillies’ bullpen ERA (7.06) not only was last in the Majors, but roughly 2.5 runs higher than the National League average.

“He’ll succeed there,” another NL executive said. “It’s just a matter of whether that’s next season or if it’s going to take a little time.”