What Hiring Dave Dombrowski Means for Phillies Odds, Realmuto Reunion and Lindor Dream
Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Dave Dombrowski
It’s rare that the hire of an executive signals a time to buy for sports bettors, but the exception might be when a team hires Dave Dombrowski.
The Phillies announced on Friday that Dombrowski will be the man in charge of baseball operations, ending months of coming up empty on big names and finally persuading the World Series winner to take the reigns.
It should excite fans and bettors for one main reason: Hiring Dave Dombrowski means your team wants to win sooner than later.
Every executive might say that, but the trend in baseball has been the dramatic tear down and tank, recently made popular by the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. But Dombrowski, 64, isn’t leaving behind his ownership aspirations in Nashville to tank.
The Phillies are 30-1 at most shops to win the World Series at, including Parx in Pennsylvania. That trails NL East rivals Atlanta (10-1) and New York (18-1). They’re right behind the Cubs (25-1) and Reds (25-1), two cost-cutting teams in the NL Central.
For weeks, it seemed that number was too low. There was no one leading baseball operations. J.T. Realmuto was all but gone. Zack Wheeler was (maybe?) on the trade block. And the Phillies had to do damage control on a preposterous story claiming a $2 billion loss in 2020.
Perhaps Dombrowski is the ultimate PR damage control.
Owner John Middleton responded by hiring a man famous for going all-in on winning, with little regard for money and prospects. He’s been quite successful at it, winning two World Series (Marlins and Red Sox) and losing two others with the Tigers. If given the resources — and that’s a more important task for Middleton than winning a press conference — Dombrowski could be the right fit for a quick rebound.
Dombrowski most recently took over the Red Sox toward the end of the 2015 season. In his first offseason, he traded for closer Craig Kimbrel and signed top starting pitcher David Price. A year later he traded for Chris Sale, setting the stage for a World Series in 2018.
There’s one big difference between the job he took in Boston and what he’s getting in Philadelphia. The Phillies farm system is weak, limiting trade options. Boston’s farm system ranked No. 5 according to Baseball Prospectus when Dombrowski took over.
Still, the cupboard isn’t empty.
The Phillies finished 81-81 in 2019 and 28-32 in 2020. But a competitive core is there.
A lineup with Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen and Alec Bohm is a good start. You can do much worse than Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler-Zach Eflin at the top of the rotation.
The 2020 season wasn’t as bad as it seemed. The team was 5-10 in 7-inning games and were 7-13 in interleague play against the AL East. The bullpen was a disaster. That can be fixed.
The biggest holes are shortstop, catcher and the bullpen. The Phillies shed over $60 million in guaranteed contracts from last season that could be reinvested into the 2021 roster. If that happens, a possible Realmuto reunion shores up catcher. There are many bullpen options on the market, including Liam Hendriks, Trevor Rosenthal and Brad Hand.
As for shortstop?
DraftKings has odds posted on Francisco Lindor’s team on Opening Day. The Phillies are third on the board at +500, trailing just the Reds (+425) and Mets (+450). If the Phillies will absorb Lindor’s full salary, it won’t take a top-five farm system to acquire him.
Bohm wouldn’t be moved, but pitching prospect Spencer Howard is highly-regarded. Bryson Stott, Mick Abel and Francisco Morales are prospects a rebuilding team could find attractive in a deal.
If not Lindor, other viable options are on the market in Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien.
If they don’t reinvest those savings, futures bettors are counting on stars performing like stars and fringe players hitting their ceiling. If you’re not expecting a spending spree, better numbers will be available in the spring with top free agents off the board.
Dave Dombrowski said Phillies are a "retool," not a "rebuild" situation. Says they want to win in 2021, although resources are not unlimited. Payroll will not be the same as 2020, but he says there is a desire to resign J.T. Realmuto.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) December 11, 2020
The path to putting together a playoff contender is there, if the Phillies get aggressive now instead of 2021. If you’re willing to bet they do, they are 20-1 to win the NL pennant at DK. They’re +575 at PointsBet to win the NL East, behind the Braves (-134), Mets (+350) and Nationals (+375.).
If the presence of Mets owner Steve Cohen in the division and mocking of the Phillies early in the offseason is enough to motivate Middleton to provide Dombrowski the resources, these numbers won’t be available in March.