After signing Aaron Nola to a seven-year, $172 million contract right out of the off-season gate, Phillies team president Dave Dombrowski has been pretty quiet.
Sure, it appears he made an aggressive pitch to land 25-year-old Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and they’ve been rumored to be interested in a few right-handed relief options, but other than a trade for Kolby Allard, nothing else has materialized. And as we watch one right-handed bullpen option after another come off the market, it looks as if Dombrowski is happy heading into Clearwater with what most experts believe is the 3rd-best team in the National League.
Were they to do that, it would be understandable. As currently constructed, they have a roster that can win the World Series, but one that is not as talented as Atlanta’s of L.A.’s.
However, with a number of big free agents wilting on the free agent market and a quiet trade market, we’re getting dangerously close to that time of the off-season when some of the big-money sharks lurk and snare some high value targets that aren’t receiving the kind of interest that had been hoping for.
WIP’s Howard Eskin said as much on Tuesday when asked if he thinks Dombrowski is done adding this off-season.
“No, absolutely N-O. They are not done,” Eskin said the station’s Midday Show. “They will get, I believe, another starter and I think they will get another pitcher for the bullpen. And they need another bat...
“...They wanted [Corbin Burnes] from Milwaukee, but Milwaukee wants so much,” Eskin said. “If they got him, they’re right there with Atlanta.”
“Dave Dombrowski, I have confidence in him, real confidence that he is going to do something.”
Burnes and the Brewers agreed to a one-year, $16 million deal to avoid arbitration a few weeks ago but it’s clear the hard-throwing right-hander is going to hit free agency after the ‘24 season. Should Milwaukee fail to get off to a good start this season, he’ll undoubtedly be dealt at the trade deadline. However, it doesn’t appear as if they’re ready to move him now.
That being said, if this report is accurate, Dombrowski’s inactivity thus far isn’t an indication he’s satisfied with the team as currently constructed.
Certainly the Phils have not wanted to meet the asking price of reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell or left-hander Jordan Montgomery, nor have they been willing to dole out the money sought by Cody Bellinger. But what if a month goes by any of these players remain unsigned? It’s the perfect recipe for Dombrowski to swoop in like a turkey vulture and gobble up a key piece lying in the street on a more team-friendly contract.
Keep in mind, the Phillies had no intention of signing both Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos leading up to the 2022 season, but with Castellanos available well into March, Dombrowski convinced John Middleton to pony up a five-year, $100 million contract to further solidify the lineup. One can argue whether that contract has been worth it, but Castellanos was quite good for long stretches of 2023, and made real contributions to the team’s playoff runs in ‘22 and last season.
One could see Dombrowski doing the same thing for Snell or Montgomery and worrying about figuring out what to do with Taijuan Walker or Cristopher Sanchez as the season goes along. And while it appears the Phillies want to give Johan Rojas every opportunity to win the center fielder’s job this spring, what if Jorge Soler is willing to come to Philadelphia on a cheap one-year deal? What if Adam Duvall or Tommy Pham are still waiting around to find a new home and can be had for pennies on the dollar? The opportunity cost might be too tantalizing for him to pass up.
There are still a couple additions they could make to the bullpen too — Ryne Stanek, Wandy Peralta and Phil Maton to name three — and the longer those guys remain on the market, the better the buying opportunity for Dombrowski and the Phils.
Their relative inactivity, outside of the Nola signing, has been a bit frustrating as the Braves and Dodgers made major additions, but the Hot Stove has been more lukewarm for virtually every team throughout baseball. And I suspect Eskin is correct, Dombrowski is going to do something over the next month, perhaps not until players have to report to Florida or Arizona and the pressure of time becomes a factor.
Beware a quiet Dave Dombrowski.