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Monday, October 24, 2022

On The Whole Dombrowski Situation

I know that last part because, well, Dombrowski is in Philadelphia now. But I also know that last part because that’s the exact road he’s continued down since taking over the Phillies. In his three years since taking over the team, Dombrowski has given out the following contracts:

Kyle Gibson (34 years old when he signed): 3 years, $28 million

Kyle Schwarber (29): four years, $79 million

Zack Wheeler (30): 5 years, $118 million

Nick Castellanos (30): 5 years, $100 million

JT Realmuto (30): 5 years, $115 million

Noah Syndergaard (30): 1 years, $21 million

That’s five contracts of three years or more, all for players in their 30s. That’s about $450 million in total dollars. That’s in just three years….

Right now the Phillies are riding high, and good for them. They’re in their ‘2018 Red Sox’ phase. Everything came together. Most of their big money signings have been good and healthy. They’re winning playoff games, and Phillies fans are climbing up flag poles in Center City and screaming swear words. Things are good.

Next year they’re going to have a $180 million payroll before they pay any of their non-guaranteed and non-arbitration players, and before they add anyone in free agency. Oh, and their farm system was ranked 24th by Baseball Prospectus this past season. Next year their team will be older and more expensive than it was this year, and that’ll likely be true again in 2024. At a certain point you damn the torpedoes and keep signing progressively more expensive free agents, or you pay the piper.

We in Boston have seen this before. It’s fun now, sure, but nothing is ever free.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 24, 2022 at 04:41 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dave dombrowski, phillies, red sox

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   1. DL from MN Posted: October 24, 2022 at 05:38 PM (#6102416)
We should worry because the Phillies will have a $50M drop in payroll this offseason? Most teams can fill in the roster for $50M. The Castellanos contract is the only one that is really hurting them. I think most teams would gladly take on what they have left to pay Realmuto and Wheeler.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 24, 2022 at 05:41 PM (#6102417)
Dombrowski didn't sign Wheeler, and he traded for Syndergaard and Gibson, FWIW.

This kind of hand-wringing is always weird to me. Oh no, you're winning now, but what if you weren't in the future?
   3. John Northey Posted: October 24, 2022 at 07:01 PM (#6102441)
Flags fly forever. The Phillies have been around since the 1883 and have a grand total of 2 WS titles, and 5 times getting there and losing - last being 2009. As a Jay fan I still remember 92/93 - think about the Jays started in 1977, nearly 100 years after the Phillies but have the same number of titles. Or the Marlins who started in 1994 and have 2 titles. If the Phillies win it all this year and suck for the next 20 years they'd still be far ahead of where they'd be under 'business as usual'. A title is worth years of sucking. If they come up just short at least they came close which is more than the Phillies could say from 2010-2021, or from 1994-2007, or from 1951-1975 or 1916-1949. Yeah, they've had LOOOONG slumps. Boston can attest to that too - 1919-2003 no WS wins despite having Ted Williams, Roger Clemens, and many other all-time greats through their peak years.

To hand-wring right now about how the team might suck in 2023 and beyond is silly. This is your teams time - enjoy the ride and worry about 2023 and beyond after the WS is over.
   4. GregD Posted: October 24, 2022 at 07:09 PM (#6102442)

My Philly friends would trade some years in the gutter for this one and maybe next being fun seasons.
   5. John Northey Posted: October 24, 2022 at 07:10 PM (#6102443)
Ah, just read the article and it is by a Red Sox person. Makes more sense that way - warning that Dave Dombrowski has a rep of coming in, doing whatever it takes to win, then leaves the mess for someone else to clean up.

GM of Expos 1988-1991 (set up the powerhouse 1994 team)
GM of Marlins 1991-2001 - won a WS there
GM of Tigers 2002-2015 - handed a mess, got worse (119 losses), got to a WS and made the playoffs 4 years in a row plus 1 more, twice to WS - team hasn't been back since. It hadn't been to the playoffs after 1987 until 2006 (after Dombrowski tore it apart and rebuilt it).
GM of Red Sox 2015-2019 - team was 25 games out of 1st the year before he took over, won the division 3 years in a row including a WS win then fired 10 months after that WS win.
GM of Phillies 2021-now - in WS this year for the first time in over a decade - heck, first time in the playoffs in a decade (2011).
   6. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: October 24, 2022 at 07:15 PM (#6102444)
As a fan of a team that recently employed Dombrowski, living through 2019-22 was totally worth it for 2018.

Dombrowski has a pretty strong track record when it comes to trades. He didn't really part with any prospects that came back to haunt the Sox.

EDIT: ...then again, there was the Mookie ordeal.
   7. McCoy Posted: October 24, 2022 at 07:57 PM (#6102450)
Dave Dombroswki generally went to teams with severe issues and he's made winners out of most of them.

If the magic stops working you go out and get another Dombroswki
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 24, 2022 at 10:07 PM (#6102473)
Ah, just read the article and it is by a Red Sox person. Makes more sense that way - warning that Dave Dombrowski has a rep of coming in, doing whatever it takes to win, then leaves the mess for someone else to clean up.

That's a deal most fans with take 10 out of 10 times.
   9. Cooper Nielson Posted: October 24, 2022 at 10:25 PM (#6102475)
GM of Tigers 2002-2015 - handed a mess, got worse (119 losses), got to a WS and made the playoffs 4 years in a row plus 1 more, twice to WS - team hasn't been back since. It hadn't been to the playoffs after 1987 until 2006 (after Dombrowski tore it apart and rebuilt it).

Speaking as a Tiger fan, Dave Dombrowski was the best GM we ever had, and I don't blame him a bit for the mess he left behind (which, honestly, should have been cleaned up by now anyway). Those were great years to be a fan, even if we never won a World Series. The Tigers were interesting and fun and successful.
   10. Howie Menckel Posted: October 24, 2022 at 10:40 PM (#6102477)
the NY football Giants have won a playoff game in only 2 of the last 21 seasons.

and in those two seasons, they might rank as the two worst Super Bowl-winning teams of all time.

the response from Giants fans always is - "who cares?" and rightly so !

flags indeed fly forever.

especially given the sheer number of teams these days, even one championship is worth a huge tradeoff from the other seasons. and the Phillies already have an unexpected pennant, so this will not be a "wasted season," no matter what at this point.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: October 24, 2022 at 11:00 PM (#6102480)
The Miggy extension was dumb; the Sale deal has blown up but that's the risk of any pitcher deal. DD's never gonna win the $/WAR trophy but he doesn't make a lot of stinker deals.

As a tip to writers, if you're gonna whinge about the GM do not start your whinge with a 3/$28 M deal. Those sorts of deals are simply meaningless to any team these days. Every team starts with at least $250 M (give or take) in revenue these days -- that Kyle Gibson is eating up 1/25th of team revenue is of zero consequence. You come off even worse when the guy made 31 starts of 168 innings.

Finally, unless you don't want any FAs, you're gonna have some players in their 30s. It's not a death sentence. Decline doesn't generally start until 32-33 and it's usually not a nosedive. I can agree that Schwarber was probably a bit over-priced at 4/$79 but Schwarber 29-32 will be a perfectly solid baseball addition 9 times out of 10. Now after that age 32 season, you probably don't want him around anymore but that's moot.

Mea culpa: I also thought Wheeler, Castellanos and Realmuto were over-priced although Realmuto falls into the "among the best in the game, I'm not gonna stress about this one" category.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 24, 2022 at 11:06 PM (#6102481)
Brian Bannister, thoughtful guy and Giants director of pitching, had a good thread of Dombrowski and a good point I thought.

3. He believes in blue chip players.

In today’s analytical game, it’s often about who “wins” the trade or $/WAR or other internal valuation metrics.

Baseball teams have become very smart.

But this can lead to a lack of trade liquidity.

By always waiting patiently for “smart” trades or avoiding larger free agent contracts it admittedly reduces career risk and public scrutiny.

But by being willing to lose a trade slightly at times from a valuation perspective it often gives you access to special players....

This approach is less sustainable long-term, but it can result in juggernaut teams.

With Dave, there is no doubt that the only goal is to win a ring.

If everybody else at the poker table is playing the safe percentages, the person willing to risk more chips can be disruptive.

It's okay to "lose" a trade if you win the game.
   13. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 25, 2022 at 07:46 AM (#6102490)
One thing I respect about Dombrowski (and I say this as a Red Sox fan who saw this in action with my team in the late 2010s) is that, when you hire him, he is very direct about what he is trying to do, and how he is going to try to do it. I never felt he came across as arrogant, or elite, or aloof - he has a philosophy for building a team, with a goal of getting your franchise a World Series title. Period.

He doesn't promise he will build a sustainable winner.
He doesn't promise to build a top-notch farm system.
He doesn't promise to create a "window" where you can win multiple championships.

Whatever the team's budget is, he will spend to it, and then lobby hard to get the owner to spend more. If the money needs to be pushed into the out years, he'll do it - after all, he knows he probably won't be there to have to deal with the balloon payment-styled salaries, if that's what it took to win the World Series right now.

Look, the 2020 season was about as awful for the Red Sox as it gets. Zero farm system, ravaged salary structure, awful pitching depth, and a team that played .400 ball. There were times in 2020 it seemed impossible that we had been a dominant, 100-win, World Series champion less than two years earlier! But that's Dombrowski. In 2022, we were paying Sale and Price over $43m to basically not pitch for the Red Sox - and we had to trade Betts to prevent the team from paying another $16m to Price last year!

But 2018 was awesome. For most people, you'll only get a handful of times in your life where your favorite team is the Big Bully of their sport. I can remember the smallest details about key moments of the years my teams have won the whole thing, and it stays with you (in a good way) for your whole life. If hiring Dombrowski means you've got a legit chance of experiencing one of those moments, but in exchange, you've got to deal with several years after it of roaming aimlessly in the sports wilderness, I'd make that deal again.
   14. Jose is an Absurd Sultan Posted: October 25, 2022 at 08:21 AM (#6102492)
The article reads like a little bit of a pre-emptive strike against the coming Shaughnessy column. Like the other Sox fans here I'll take what Dombrowski did, not just the WS winner but three straight division titles. That was a hell of a lot of fun.
   15. Nasty Nate Posted: October 25, 2022 at 09:17 AM (#6102494)
Maybe I'm imagining this idea, but I want to push back on the concept that inefficient spending caused greatness. The majority of the inefficiency of the 2018 Red Sox was the contracts for Hanley/Sandoval/Pedroia/Rusney, and they had zero part of that team's success. More generally, if you let someone spend $250m per year on talent, and they are runner-up to the Rays in Wins-per-$, they would win 120 games or whatever.
   16. villageidiom Posted: October 25, 2022 at 10:48 AM (#6102511)
and we had to trade Betts to prevent the team from paying another $16m to Price last year!
I know I've beat a similar drum a bunch of times, but "had to" was an ownership choice. If the Phillies don't make that choice, then it eliminates (or more likely postpones) the downside about which the author is warning.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: October 25, 2022 at 04:52 PM (#6102568)
Maybe I'm imagining this idea, but I want to push back on the concept that inefficient spending caused greatness.

It's not so much that inefficient spending causes greatness** as it is that big contracts are nearly always inefficient in the long-run, often in the short-term too so your choices are (a) avoid inefficiency by never having established good players around; (b) accept inefficiency in order to have established good players around -- i.e. if you want 1 star and 2 good players then you get them by signing 5 expensive guys; (c) hoping you get reallly lucky for the next 3 years and none of your big contracts go belly-up ... in which case you might as well push your luck and sign 5 expensive guys.

Add "trade these prospects who are 3 years away from being good players and most of whom will never produce much for some wins now" in place of "sign expensive guys" to taste.

Which is not to say that the argument is proved (it certainly should be questioned) but the argument essentially is that you're not likely to get JDM (6.7 WAR in 2018), Pearce (1.1, 0.5 WAA), Sale (6.5), Price (3.7), Porcello (2.5), Kimbrel (2.1 ... erratic but 42 saves and 1.1 WAA) without having to suffer through Hanley et al. (Was DD responsible for Hanley et al?) It's also true the team doesn't dominate without Mookie, X, Devers, ERod and guys who cost essentially nothing and thankfully weren't traded away years ago for expensive stars but all that inefficiently spent money brought in 24 WAR, 12 WAA ... 12 WAA is a lot, enough to get you to the playoffs most years (if you can be average elsewhere). Of course the expensive flops will give back some WAA if you give them playing time.

Because of the payroll structure of the game (even leaving aside how revenue is distributed), internal resources are inherently efficient and external resources are inherently inefficient. Even a 55-win tanker is getting good return on their pre-arb and arb players. GMs aren't distinguished here in terms of efficiency exactly, it's more a question of whether you can consistently develop internal resources such that your returns are insanely good, not just crazy good. Most obviously in pre-arb where Mike Trout costs you no more than some 105 ERA+ reliever who hasn't gotten hurt yet.

Similarly, pretty much no GM is financially efficient when it comes to external resource acquisition. If nothing else, it's the winner's curse that operates in every auction. But further in the real world, you have little choice but to overpay in the long-term to acquire short-term assets, via trade or FA. The most efficient are probably the ones who mostly refuse to play. The key question here is would you rather waste a heap of money acquiring 10 marginal WAR or three heaps of money acquiring 20 marginal WAR. The first is clearly more "efficient", the second wins you more ballgames. It would be great to look at whether the long-term cost/short-term beneift ratio is better in prospect trades or in wasting money. I wouldn't be surprised if, on average, teams are better off spending prospects but, when you lose, you lose big.

The big issue becomes when a GM makes obvious mistakes in the external market -- which to the extent they under-valued their own prospects in a trade might also be a failure in the internal resource department too. Sandoval was clearly a risky player to sign long-term and that was something everybody knew in trying to determine what he should get. Trading top prospects for Sale is completely different IMO but that doesn't mean they didn't overpay, it just means Sale was a "guaranteed" stud at the end of a cheap contract. (Extending Sale is yet another kettle of fish.) So Sandoval might have been an obvious mistake but trading for Sale is easily defensible (again, doesn't mean you have to accept it was a good idea). Not at all obvious to anybody I don't think is that he'd collapse immediately. Signing the over-rated Ryan Howard two years before FA to a long, expensive extension was obviously a mistake by ... I've forgotten the Phils' GM's name. Anyway, pitchers get hurt and apparently one long-term contract every year or two goes all Crawford/Sandoval/Heyward immediately.

** I'm not sure anybody claimed "greatness" but that's not really the issue here ... I'll just substitute "2-3 years of comfortably making the playoffs" for "greatness."

EDIT: Before this thread, I'd completely forgotten DD was in Philly. Back when he landed there, I'm pretty sure I thought it would go quite badly. I wasn't overly impressed with the idea of Schwarber, Castellanos, Hoskins and Harper all on the same team. But chances taken, dice rolled and once again DD has hit his point.
   18. Bad Fish Posted: October 26, 2022 at 06:49 PM (#6102740)
Dombrowski's particular trick is recognizing that prospects are overvalued and trading them for established major league talent usually wins in the long run and always wins now. He also seems fairly skilled at separating the husks from the grain when it comes to offering up prospects. I think he is a bit too willing to go the extra mile to secure a trade, and that is part of what bottoms out his farm systems.

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