Assessing 2023 front offices: Dombrowski-Fuld and the Philadelphia Phillies are at the top of the list

Phillies president Dave Dombrowski and general manager Sam Fuld had MLB's best front office record in 2023, improving their team by 13.9 games.
Philadelphia Phillies general manager Sam Fuld
Philadelphia Phillies general manager Sam Fuld / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Dombrowski/Sam Fuld front office WAA impact for Philadelphia Phillies: +13.9 games. Rank in MLB: 1. Rank in division: 1.

As defending National League champions, the Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to be a serious 2023 threat. But this is a case where the data is deceiving. In fact, the Phils have only advanced as far as they’ve gotten this season due to the skills of their front office in reshaping the team’s existing talent base.

If not for the enhancements and repairs provided by team president Dave Dombrowski and general manager Sam Fuld, the Phils probably aren’t playing postseason baseball this October.

Dombrowski and Fuld may have begun their 2023 prep work last November with a league championship roster, but standing pat would have been fatal. Sensing that, they made 40 personnel moves impacting their or another major league roster. An imposing 28 of those moves worked to the Phillies’ advantage; only 11 worked against the Phillies (one was neutral).

The sum total short-term impact of those moves on the Phillies talent base amounted to +13.9 games as measured by the net Wins Above Average of those moves. That makes the Dombrowski-Fuld operation baseball’s best in 2023.

Underscoring the importance of that level of improvement is the fact that the Phillies only qualified for this postseason by a margin of six games, just half as much as the statistical value of the Dombrowski-Fuld advances.

That makes Dombrowski and Fuld the fourth front office execs to maneuver their teams into a postseason position in 2023, joining Kim Ng in Miami, Mike Hazen in Arizona and Ross Atkins in Toronto.  

For the record, WAA is used in this series of front office evaluations because it is a zero-based version of WAR, therefore enabling valid approximations of impact against wins and losses.

Five free agent signings and two rookie promotions drove the ascendency of the Phillies operation.

The most obvious is the signing last winter of shortstop Trea Turner. Following a rocky start, Turner closed with enough panache and power to provide +1.5 WAA.

Far less heralded but nearly as valuable was the work of Matt Strahm. Another winter signee, Strahm made 56 appearances, 10 of them starts, and went 9-5 with a 3.29 ERA, providing +1.4 WAA.

Jeff Hoffman found respite from his previous life as a member of the beleaguered Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds staffs when the Phillies picked him up in late March. In 54 appearances, Hoffman produced a 2.41 ERA and +1.4 WAA.

Journeyman Taijuan Walker, a third December signee, went 15-6 with a 4.38 ERA in 31 starts in 172 innings, good for +1.0 WAA.

Craig Kimbrel, signed in January as a late-inning bullpen guy, may be scary to watch. However, he still saved 23 games with a 3.26 ERA and a +1.00 WAA.

Called up in mid-season, Joha Rojas proved a find in center field. He hit .302 down the stretch with 14 steals in 15 attempts and played exceptional outfield defense, all of that amounting to +1.9 WAA.

Finally, rookie pitcher Christopher Sanchez started 18 games with a 3.44 WAA, contributing +1.3 WAA.

Here’s the full short-term and long-term statistical profile on the 2023 performance of the Dombrowski-Fuld front office. Again, all figures reflect group Wins Above Average.

Acquired by trade, waiver claim or purchase:

  • Since October 2022, 11 players, -1.9 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 6 players, +1.8 net impact

Signed as a free agent or extended for multiple seasons:

  • Since October 2022, 8 players, +5.5 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 4 players, -1.4 net impact

System products:

  • Since October 2022, 5 players, +2.9 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 5 players, +2.2 net impact

Traded away, waived, sold, released or lost to free agency

  • Since October 2022, 13 players, +7.4 net impact
  • Prior to October 2022, 15 players, -3.0 net impact

Some of the Dombrowski-Fuld transactional numbers are exceptional. None is more so than their free agent judgment.

They signed eight players on the open market, and seven of those eight produced positive value to the Phillies. In the five cases noted above, that value exceeded +1.0.

It worked both ways, too. Dombrowski and Fuld cut ties with eight 2023 free agents who signed with other teams. Six of those eight provide to be liabilities to their new teams and, in three cases, those negative values exceeded -1.0 WAA.

Putting the Phillies’ front office performance in perspective only underscores its exceptionality. As measured by net WAA, the 5.7-game gap between the first place Phillies (+13.9) and runner-up Mike Elias' Orioles (+8.2) is larger than the gap between Elias and the Kim Ng Miami front office (+2.2), which ranks 10th.

The historical perspective is equally flattering. Since 2012, only three front offices (Toronto in 2021, Atlanta in 2019 and Toronto again in 2015) have had stronger short-term performances than did Dombrowski-Fuld in 2023.  

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