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If you want the Phillies to win now, Dave Dombrowski is the right hire

On the latest Hittin’ Season, a conversation on Dombrowski as the Phillies’ new win-now executive.

Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

Well whaddaya know, the Phillies found someone who would uproot their life during a pandemic.

The team made it official on Friday when they announced Dave Dombrowski would become the team’s first ever president of baseball operations.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported owner John Middleton signed Dombrowski to a four-year, $20 million to leave a comfortable situation in Nashville, where he had been working to bring a Major League Baseball team to Tennessee if and when the league expands again, and lead the Phils back to the postseason.

By now, you know his resume. He won the World Series with the Miami Marlins in 2003 and the Boston Red Sox in 2018. He was fired by Boston a year later once ownership made it clear they planned to pull back in spending on the team. He also resurrected the Detroit Tigers in the previous decade and took them to Fall Classics in 2006 and 2012.

You also know his modus operandi. He’s a win-now executive. He signs big-time free agents, sometimes to bloated contracts that are impossible to swallow on the back-end (Miguel Cabrera’s 8-year, $248 million deal, for example), and specifically targets aces to lead his rotations. He swings big trades and is never shy about dealing away prospects from the farm system.

The Phillies have Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Rhys Hoskins and Zach Eflin in their primes. Alec Bohm is coming into his own. Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura are veterans who can be part of a winning nucleus if they’re buttressed with additional help. This is a team is built to win now, even if they haven’t done nearly as much winning as was expected.

If you wanted the Phils to start rebuilding again (a concept so befuddling it defies logic), then you’re likely disappointed by this hire. Dombrowski is not going to come to Philadelphia, blow things up, and build through the farm system. One would assume Middleton lured Dombrowski to the Phils with the promise the team would do what it takes to put a winner on the field. The only question is whether that will happen in 2021, or whether the Phillies will take a gap year as Dombrowski decides what needs fixing in the organization. One would imagine this kind of stuff would be near the top of the list.

(Obviously, the first part of the above tweet is the most relevant... not so much the Josh Byrnes stuff at this point).

But if you think it’s time for the Phils to end the second-longest postseason drought in Major League Baseball and return to the playoffs for the first time in a decade, then you should be very pleased with the selection of Dombrowski. Not knowing what financial restraints will be imposed this off-season, it’s likely Dombrowski will be able to open up the checkbook once Middleton is assured fans will once again come to the ballpark, if not in ‘21 then in 2022. Otherwise he’s walking right into a situation in Philadelphia that was exactly like the one he left in Boston two years ago.

There are a number of questions that cannot be answered yet. We don’t know what this means for the Phillies’ chances of re-signing J.T. Realmuto, although one would think it helps a bit. We don’t know how this will affect all the work the Phils have done building an analytics department, as Dombrowski is an old-school baseball guy and not bathed in analytics like Klentak. We don’t know if it’s even possible for Dombrowski to do what he’s always done — use the farm system to improve the big league roster, as most experts put the Phillies’ system among the bottom 10 in baseball.

Still, even if the franchise had to be dragged kicking and screaming into replacing Andy MacPhail right away, it was the right decision, and Dave Dombrowski’s track record suggests he will get the Phillies back on the winning track sooner rather than later.

On Episode 440 of Hittin’ Season, I broke down the Dombrowski signing further with Liz Roscher of Yahoo! Sports and Justin Klugh of Baseball Prospectus, with pros and cons and a number of “what ifs” to ponder. Subscribe, download and tell a friend about the Good Phight podcasts!