On August 4, the Detroit Tigers “released Dave Dombrowski from his contract,” as owner Mike Ilitch decided to promote assistant general manager Al Avila to take the team in a somewhat different direction. While Avila worked closely with Dombrowski, he did make it clear that he intended to modernize the team’s front office a bit more, promoting analyst Sam Menzin to a more prominent role and noting that they’d be expanding the department under him. Dombrowski had a successful run as the Tigers GM, but is one of the more traditional executives still running teams in this age of increasing information.
And now, two weeks later, Dombrowski has landed a new position, taking the title of president of baseball operations with the Boston Red Sox. As part of the transition, GM Ben Cherington will be leaving the organization, and Bob Nightengale reports that former Braves GM Frank Wren is the most likely candidate to replace Cherington. Wren was ousted in Atlanta in part because the team had fallen behind the curve analytically, so a Dombrowski-Wren combination would make for one of the more old-school front office tandems in baseball.
Given that the Red Sox have been among the most aggressive teams in terms of implementing analytics and using data to drive their decision making, this looks like a pretty monumental shift in organizational philosophy. Given that nearly every move Cherington and his staff made last winter has turned out as poorly as possible, it’s not a huge shock that he’s taking the fall for the team’s second consecutive losing season. But it is a bit surprising to see the team apparently change course so aggressively. Dombrowski certainly has a strong track record of building contenders, but it looks like the Red Sox may be pivoting away from data and more towards scouting in response to their recent failures.
One thing’s for sure: This weekend’s Saber Seminar — held in Boston, and with a schedule that was to include a large number of Red Sox front office officials, Cherington included — just got way more interesting.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.