UPDATE: We did not buy a Dombrowski. But the Red Sox did.
The Red Sox have hired Dave Dombrowski as their president of baseball operations.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) August 19, 2015
Ben Charington is out as General Manager (start your So You Want to Buy a Charington engines now).
Cherington stepping down with #RedSox, but will assist Dombrowski during the transition.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 19, 2015
Frank Wren is the leading contender to be GM under Dave Dombrowski with the #RedSox now that Ben Cherington is leaving.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) August 19, 2015
He's being called the most valuable free agent on the market, and is perhaps the kind the Mariners need most. Dave Dombrowski's unexpected dismissal from the Detroit Tigers earlier this month has led to widespread speculation about his next landing spot. With the Mariners sitting at a disappointing 55-64, focus is quickly shifting to next season. And while General Manager Jack Zduriencik inked an extension last year that Jon Morosi reported earlier this summer would keep him with the club until 2016, the discontent is palpable. Dombrowski's name has been linked to the Mariners since his firing in Detroit, but the idea has gained more traction in the last week, with Ken Rosenthal reporting this morning that "Many within the game believe that Dombrowski will land in Seattle." We've pondered what hiring Dombrowski would mean for the current structure of the organization. But if the the Mariners were to bring Dombrowski to Seattle, what exactly would they be getting? We spoke with Bless You Boys writer, and friend of Lookout Landing, Thomas Bunting for his take on Dombrowski's tenure in Detroit and what his regime might look like in Seattle.
First, are you ok? Have you recovered? Are you watching the films of George Plimpton to cope with your loss?
A few weeks ago I was in Michigan for my sister's wedding, the Tigers had pulled off some great trades, much to the satisfaction of #TeamReboot and life was good. Then insanity ensued. Kurt did a great rundown of it over at BYB. The future I once believed in vanished and I tweeted rash things, like the Tigers are NOW the Phillies. It was genuinely a bummer and being in Michigan meant I was also exposed to crazy people who were happy he was gone. Discontent with the present lures people into believing all change is good, but that is simply false. I coped by wearing striped polos in his honor and although learning that the Tigers plan on adopting a more analytical approach eased the pain, it still hurts. Last spring I sat five seats down from Dombrowski during a spring training game. I watched Shelby Miller get destroyed, failing to make it out of the first inning, and Dave sat in his seat quietly taking notes on a legal pad. Dombrowski was kind to those who stopped to talk to him. I told him I was a big fan because I was nervous and didn't know what to say. I went with honesty and I am still a fan.
What does Dombrowski do well other than throw hundreds of millions of Mike Ilitch's tomato soaked dollars around? What happens when he doesn't have that Little Caesar's money?
Dombrowski is likely a Hall of Fame GM and therefore he does a lot of things well. There was a great profile of him recently in Baseball Prospectus (sorry, it costs money). Dombrowski is a respected negotiator and works well with people -- much of his staff has been with him for decades. I get the impression that most of the big money deals were Illitch's idea and Dombrowski simply executed the will of his boss. That may or may not be true, but either way, he won't bid against himself if the Mariner's ownership decides to buy. Dombrowski's one big weakness in Detroit was his inability to build a successful bullpen and he admitted in 2014 that the 2013 ALCS still bothered him. The Tigers were the better team, but the bullpen cost them a shot at a World Series. Unfortunately for Dave, Koji Uehera has a great splitter and all of our mistakes live forever frozen in amber on MLB TV's back catalog.
Dave's background is as a player development guy. What are considered the largest development successes of Dombrowski's era?
During his time with the Tigers he did less development and more continuous trading of prospects that would basically all eventually fail for major league ready talent. Porcello, Verlander, Jackson, Smyly, Scherzer and Iglesias are the success stories, but there are many more failures. The fate of failed prospects is that no one remembers them, so we won't dare speak their names, though we should include a Raburn GIF for the good readers of Lookout Landing (Editor's note: Ouch, Thomas).
Most of this failure is due to the volatile nature of prospects and young talent, but the current Tigers minor leagues exhibit a frightening lack of depth and impact, although project Reboot did help.
The Mariners have a well documented and painful player development "track record." Despite his background, the Tigers farm system was in similarly poor shape before Dombrowski shipped David Price to Toronto and Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets at the trade deadline. Who does Dombroski bring into the organization to address these concerns?
Dombrowski is a very adept at rebuilding and at pushing the chips in, but at least with the Tigers drafting and development were not his strong suit. He does put trust in young players as evidenced by handing over third base to Nick Castellanos before the 2014 season and maintaining the faith through his struggles. Dombrowski also hasn't had very many high draft picks due to the Tigers success and the fact that they signed free agents and forfeited their first round picks in 2011 and 2012. Given higher draft picks, Dombrowski has had a decent amount of success netting Verlander, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin (or as we call them in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera), and Rick Porcello. He would not repeat the horror show that is the Mariner's yearly draft. I assume Jack Z lined up scouts and stats guys and let everyone share their reports on players until eventually Jack told everyone, "Thank you very much for all of your work, but I'm buying a Zunino. I was always buying a Zunino. Let's do this damn thing." I can't see Dave doing that.
Do you have a sense of Dombrowski's approach to building a front office? Assuming he has the latitude to bring others into the organization and shake things up, what might we expect? And is there a significant culture difference between Dombrowski and Jack?
Dombrowski is old school, but comparing him to Jack is basically slander. Dombrowski's worst move is generally believed to be the Doug Fister trade and trading Fister for nothing is something Jack invented. Dombrowski may have gotten a better return than Jack, which, staring at Ian Krol and the Shane Greene we got for Robbie Ray, is really saying something. He treats people well. He has the reputation as a shrewd negotiator, but is very well respected in the industry. Dombrowski consistently built stars and scrubs teams with weak bullpens in Detroit, but he has built a lot of different teams in a lot of places. He is a strong presence in the front office, but he is also well known as a team player. Watching him navigate the relationship with ownership, especially if there are decisions that need to be made about the direction of the organization, would be one of the most interesting things about the move. He is adaptable to many situations, so what would Dave in Seattle look like? Only he knows.
Assume for the moment that Dave decides he wants to enjoy the beauties of the Pacific Northwest rather than the Canadian climes of Toronto, what is the best case scenario for the Mariners?
He could do anything and would probably do a lot. Trading Fielder was thought to be impossible and Dombrowski turned him into a cheaper Ian Kinsler who has put up 9.9 WAR since while Prince has put up 1.9. Dombrowski could shed any contract and isn't afraid to make moves. When he took over in Montreal, he immediately started making trades. I would expect Dave would be great for Mariners twitter with the news bombs he would drop. Best case scenario: world domination.
What is the worst? And if you tell me Dombrowski would trade Kyle Seager, Thomas, I swear...
I think you are living the worst case scenario right now and I promise that it gets better. I am not the first to preach having faith in Dombrowski -- it has been a common refrain among Tigers fans and for the most part, rightfully so. If Dombrowski goes to Seattle, it's hard to see how the Mariners get worse. If you see him in Seattle, tell him I am still a fan and bask in the glow of whatever beautiful polo he happens to be wearing. I hope it's this one.