Ex-Tigers president Dave Dombrowski takes on another improvement project with Phillies

Detroit News

Rob Maaddi
 |  Associated Press

Philadelphia — Whether rebuilding or reloading, small market or large, Dave Dombrowski has been a big success at every major league stop.

His next challenging project: a Philadelphia Phillies team that’s gone nine years without a winning record.

Dombrowski is set to join the Phillies as president of baseball operations, according to two people familiar with the decision. The people spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday night because the team hadn’t announced the hire. An official announcement is expected as early as Friday, according to one of the people.

Andy MacPhail is the Phillies’ current president and has planned to retire after the 2021 season. He said in October he would be willing to step aside sooner to make way for a new baseball operations boss.

Philadelphia reassigned general manager Matt Klentak within the organization after finishing 28-32 last season.

The 64-year-old Dombrowski has led baseball operations for four teams over more than three decades in the majors, taking a trio of franchises to the World Series. His clubs have won four pennants and two Series titles.

Dombrowski was the youngest general manager in baseball history when he took over the Montreal Expos in 1988 at 31 years old, and he played a major role in putting the small-market club on a path to contention with its fruitful farm system.

He joined the expansion Florida Marlins in 1991, two years before their first game, and was the chief architect of their 1997 World Series championship. Then he oversaw an ownership-mandated fire sale, helping to ultimately rebuild a Marlins squad that won another title in 2003, although Dombrowski had left for Detroit by then.

Dombrowski turned a Tigers team that lost an American League-record 119 games in 2003 into a perennial winner. Detroit won four straight division titles from 2011-14 and AL pennants in 2006 and 2012 before cutting him loose after the 2015 season.

He joined the Red Sox as president of baseball operations the following August and made a number of key acquisitions — including ace Chris Sale, slugger J.D. Martinez and manager Alex Cora — that led to Boston’s 2018 World Series championship.

Dombrowski was fired by the Red Sox in September 2019 amid a disappointing follow-up to the championship run.

Known for aggressively pursuing major league talent, Dombrowski has also overseen the drafting and development of a number of stars, including Rondell White, Cliff Floyd, Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello.

While he’s always been able to land top players — both by buying free agents and trading away prospects — Dombrowski is taking over a franchise that might not be positioned to spend freely due to existing big contracts and the burden of the coronavirus pandemic.

Phillies owner John Middleton has spent aggressively in recent seasons, most notably signing slugger Bryce Harper to a $330 million, 13-year deal in 2019. The team has millions more tied up in deals for Zack Wheeler, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and Aaron Nola.

The spending spree could be at an end, at least for now. A person familiar with the Phillies’ finances told the AP last week the club lost $145 million during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season played without fans. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t officially released the figures.

Philadelphia finished four games below .500 last season under new manager Joe Girardi, one win shy of ending a nine-year playoff drought. The Phillies haven’t had a winning season since taking five straight division titles, two National League pennants and one World Series crown from 2007-11.

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