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Dave Dombrowski: Demoted general manager Matt Klentak could ‘consult’ for Phillies

Klentak is under contract through 2022 and remains employed by the Phillies in an unspecified front-office role.

Former Phillies GM Matt Klentak would likely exert more influence with another team.
Former Phillies GM Matt Klentak would likely exert more influence with another team.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Dave Dombrowski heard from Phillies owner John Middleton on Tuesday, spoke with him again Wednesday, agreed Thursday night to a four-year contract, and met reporters Friday for a 45-minute Zoom news conference.

It’s been a busy week.

But the Phillies’ new president of baseball operations found time to squeeze in a phone call with former general manager Matt Klentak about staying on to “consult” on personnel moves. Klentak, who was reassigned Oct. 3, is under contract through 2022 and remains with the Phillies in an unspecified front-office role.

“He said he would help however he possibly could,” Dombrowski said. “He said, ‘Dave, I want the Phillies to win. Anything I can do to help you I want to do, so just ask me anything.’ ”

Dombrowski is a hands-on leader who isn’t big on delegating responsibilities. In four years with the Boston Red Sox, he neither cleaned house in the front office that he inherited nor promoted anyone into the GM role after Mike Hazen left in 2016 to run the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It’s too soon for Dombrowski to say if he will name a general manager with the Phillies because he’s only just beginning to get acquainted with most of the people in the front office. Ned Rice, Klentak’s top assistant, has been serving as interim GM for the last 10 weeks.

In five years as general manager, Klentak led a rebuilding project that didn’t yield a playoff berth or a winning season. Although the Phillies don’t seem eager to sweep him out the door, it’s likely that he will exert greater influence if lands a job with another team.

“I guess we can wait and see who’s doing what, but I have a great deal of respect for Matt,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a very smart individual. We hope to have him part of the decision-making process when we talk about things.”

Team president Andy MacPhail is under contract through the end of next season, at which time he plans to step aside. While it appears he will remain in that role, Dombrowski will report directly to Middleton.

Money matters

It’s not clear how much money the Phillies will spend this winter, but Dombrowski confirmed that the payroll will be scaled back, no surprise considering the club eliminated 80 jobs last month.

“When you talk about COVID and everything taking place,” Dombrowski said, “I wouldn’t expect it to be at the same amount as last year.”

The Phillies nearly reached the $208 million luxury-tax threshold in 2020. They have more than $140 million committed against the luxury tax before signing a single player this offseason.

Is there enough flexibility to re-sign popular catcher J.T. Realmuto?

“Everybody in the organization loves J.T.,” Dombrowski said. “I think there’s a unanimous feeling they’d like to bring him back. Now those things are never easy. There is some flexibility to make moves there, but can you get something like that done? I’m not really not sure.”

COVID-free Dombrowski

Dombrowski revealed that he was sick with COVID-19 last month but has recovered.

“It was not an easy couple of weeks,” he said. “But I’ve got antibodies now, so if any of you see me, you don’t have to be afraid you’re going to catch it. I still wear my mask when I’m out and about.”

With the Phillies’ offices remaining closed at Citizens Bank Park, Dombrowski will work remotely for now from his home in Nashville.