David Robertson and interim Phillies manager Rob Thomson go back a long time.
The Philadelphia Phillies and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski had an intriguing trade deadline. They first acquired a pair of plus-defenders — infielder Edmundo Sosa and center fielder Brandon Marsh — followed by starting rotation depth in former star New York Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard.
Before the 6 p.m. deadline hit, however, Dombrowski made one last move that just might end up the most impactful of them all — acquiring reliever David Robertson from the Chicago Cubs.
Some believe the Phillies overpaid the National League Central club for the 37-year-old by trading their No. 26-ranked prospect, RHP Ben Brown. Yet, so far, all signs point toward the trade being a massive success.
Dombrowski likely had something in the back of his mind when making the deal for Robertson — a 14-year veteran with a 2.88 career ERA who helped the Joe Girardi-led New York Yankees defeat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series.
Dombrowski did not just acquire a reliable reliever who is familiar with the Phillies (as Robertson previously briefly pitched in red pinstripes in 2019, before becoming injured), he got a guy who interim manager Rob Thomson knew well from their days with the Yankees.
Thomson spent 28 years as a member of the American League East organization, including a decade on their major-league coaching staff as the bench coach (2008, 2015-17) and third base coach (2009-14). Robertson, meanwhile, pitched in 501 games for the Yankees from 2008-14 and 2017-18 — meaning, he was there for almost the entirety of Thomson’s big-league time in the Bronx.
As the duo reunites five years later, this familiarity will likely translate to a higher chance of success for both the reliever and skipper. So far, Robertson’s numbers are backing that up. In three post-trade appearances, he has allowed just one hit and one walk, while striking out four of his 11 batters faced across three scoreless innings pitched. His opposing batters are slashing just .100/.182/.100.
In a recent interview with The Athletic (subscription required), Robertson discussed what makes Thomson different:
"“He was always the guy (in New York), you know what I mean? Even when Girardi was there, he was still the guy. Joe was great. But Rob was still the guy. You needed something? Rob was there. Rob knew just as much and had a great feel for how things were going. What the guys were going through. He’s always had great clubhouse awareness. He was born to do this job.”"
Chances are, Thomson had “great clubhouse awareness” under Girardi with the Phillies, too. Now, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer is finally getting the chance to make an impact in the driver’s seat.
Robertson saying Thomson was born to manage just goes to show the impact he is having in the clubhouse. Something must be working, as the likely National League Manager of the Year finalist has impressively won 40 of his first 59 games.