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Kevin Towers considered another front office job with the Diamondbacks after being fired as the team’s general manager, but Towers told AZCentral.com’s Zach Buchanan that he chose to leave rather than possibly make things awkward for new GM Dave Stewart and his staff. “It didn’t feel right, and I didn’t want to be that elephant in the room when they’re making roster decisions or maybe letting people go,” Towers said. “‘I know K.T. likes him…’ I didn’t want them to have to worry about that.” Towers said he’s spoken to a few teams and thinks he’ll be in a new job before the year is out, also hinting he likely wouldn’t return to one of his other ex-clubs (the Padres, Yankees and Pirates).
As we enjoy two LCS games today, here’s some news from around baseball…
- With offense dropping around the game and a number of top-tier pitchers available in trades or free agency this offseason and next, this year’s free agent aces may find their markets slightly diminished, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (ESPN Insider subscription required).
- Also from Olney’s piece, he reports that rival officials feel Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will test the free agent market when he is eligible after the 2015 season. Zimmermann’s long-term status in Washington will be one of the biggest questions facing the Nats this winter.
- Alex Rodriguez “is the most expensive mystery in baseball history,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Yankees currently have no idea if A-Rod will be able to handle third base on a regular basis, provide first base depth, hit well enough to earn DH at-bats or be healthy enough to play whatsoever. This makes the team’s winter planning rather difficult, as just releasing Rodriguez would mean the Yankees have no way of recovering any of the $61MM remaining on his contract via insurance payments.
- First baseman Dan Johnson is looking to add to his skillset by learning the knuckleball, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. “Why not have something else in the bag? Give yourself every chance,” Johnson said. “I’m not 24 anymore. I want to help out as much as possible and still be relevant in this game.” Johnson, best known for his dramatic Game 162 homer for the Rays in 2011, recently elected to become a free agent after the Blue Jays outrighted him off their 40-man roster.
- MLB.com’s Corey Brock profiles Dan Kantrovitz, a St. Louis native who rose from a teenage internship (mostly handling Mark McGwire’s fan mail) with the Cardinals to becoming the club’s scouting director.
- The Astros are next up for Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel in his rankings of each team’s top prospects and their overall farm system depth.
After being replaced as the general manager of the Diamondbacks, Kevin Towers has declined an opportunity to stay on in another capacity, the club announced today. The club has also decided not to renew the contract of assistant GM Billy Ryan.
Towers had been waiting to consider the new role after talking it over with new GM Dave Stewart. He took over the club’s baseball operations in 2010. After initially finding success, the D’backs have sputtered in each of the last two years. The seat increasingly heated up as a series of high-profile trades (and, to a lesser extent, free agent signings) backfired on the veteran executive.
Towers first hit his stride in a front office capacity with the Padres, starting out as their scouting director and ultimately taking over as the GM. A long tenure ended after the 2009 season, leading Towers to work as a special assignment scout with the Yankees for one year before heading to Arizona.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Towers. Many have speculated that he could move back to San Diego in some kind of advisory capacity to newly-hired GM A.J. Preller, though there are no indications to date that anything is in the works.
The Padres announced that they have hired former Astros national crosschecker David Post as a special assistant to GM A.J. Preller and the scouting department. Post will assist Preller in all aspects of amateur, professional and international scouting.
In addition to his experience with the Astros, Post has served as a regional scout for the Marlins as well. The 41-year-old also had a 12-year playing career as a minor leaguer with the Dodgers, Expos, Indians, Pirates, Yankees and Rockies, tallying a combined .272/.367/.383 batting line.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets that the hiring seems to cast doubt over previous speculation that Kevin Towers would join the Padres’ front office in an advisory capacity were he dismissed as GM of the division-rival D’Backs, which he ultimately was. Towers has been offered a scouting role within the Diamondbacks organization.
9:27am: Arizona has announced via press release (in a somewhat oblique manner) that Towers has been removed from the general manager position.
The club says that it will open a search for a new GM, with the interview process beginning this week. “Any additional changes within the Baseball Operations department will be decided upon jointly” between LaRussa, President and CEO Derrick Hall, and the new GM, according to the announcement.
Meanwhile, Towers has seemingly not been fired, per se. The team says that he has been offered another position within the organization, and is considering the opportunity. In a prepared statement, LaRussa says that Towers “would like to see who the general manager is before making his own decision.”
1:56am: The Diamondbacks have fired general manager Kevin Towers, sources tell Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Towers becomes the second NL West GM to be dismissed during the 2014 campaign, as Padres GM Josh Byrnes was let go earlier in the summer.
Towers, who has been in the GM’s chair for Arizona since succeeding interim GM Jerry Dipoto (now GM of the Angels) back in 2010. His job security has been questioned over the course of the season given the Diamondbacks’ dismal performance, which will result in their third consecutive season without a playoff appearance.
Earlier this season, the Diamondbacks hired Tony La Russa to serve as the club’s Chief Baseball Officer — a position that was created in order to analyze and oversee the club’s decision-making process. That move prompted many to speculate that Towers’ days with the organization could be numbered, which does appear to be the case, as Piecoro hears that an official announcement on the move will be coming in the morning.
Few of the moves that Towers has made in recent seasons have panned out well. This past offseason, he dealt center fielder Adam Eaton and left-hander Tyler Skaggs in order to acquire Mark Trumbo from the Angels — a move that he felt was necessary to address a lack of power from the team’s corner outfielders. However, the move came just a season after Arizona dealt Justin Upton (and Chris Johnson) to the Braves in exchange for what most believed at the time to be an underwhelming package of Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill. The Trumbo acquisition, however, was just one attempt at bringing a power-hitting corner bat back into the organization, as Towers also inked Cody Ross to a three-year, $26MM pact that has been a negative for the organization.
Prado was signed to a four-year, $40MM extension before playing so much as a game with the D’Backs, but that contract looked questionable at best just 18 months later when he was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for power-hitting prospect Peter O’Brien. The team also received little in exchange for right-hander Ian Kennedy — left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, relief prospect Matt Stites and competitive balance (Round B) draft pick — and then watched Kennedy go on to have a strong rebound in his first full season with San Diego.
Towers’ trade of Trevor Bauer in a three-team deal that netted Didi Gregorius — a light-hitting but defensively gifted shortstop — was also the source of scrutiny, though Gregorius still looks to have some promise. The D’Backs seemed dissatisfied with Bauer’s behavior, and he wasn’t the only player whose demeanor didn’t sit well with management. The Diamondbacks reportedly allowed players’ laid back personalities to fuel multiple transactions, including the aforementioned trade of Upton.
Ultimately, while Towers’ tenure had its bright spots — the five-year, $32MM extension signed by Paul Goldschmidt looks tremendous for the D’Backs at this point — his run as GM appeared to consist of more moves that served as steps backward than moves that provided a foundation for on-field success.
It’s been speculated that Towers, if dismissed by the D’Backs, could return to San Diego in an advisory capacity, though Padres officials denied on multiple occasions that they’d had any conversations with Towers regarding the potential move. Now that he is on the market, Towers will obviously be free to explore a new post with the Padres or any other club.
Looking ahead for Arizona, LaRussa has only begun the work of turning things around. He still has to decide on the fate of manager Kirk Gibson, who was serving as interim manager when Towers was hired but was ultimately awarded the full-time job. And more importantly, LaRussa will presumably spearhead a search for a new general manager to work under him. It remains to be seen what kind of timeline the club will work under, but there should be sufficient time to install a new GM before the offseason kicks into gear if that is the intention.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Tigers have “kicked around” the idea of trading for a hitter to bolster the back end of their lineup, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in his latest Full Count video. Finding a quality bat will be more difficult in the August waiver period, of course, and there also isn’t any position that Detroit would clearly be looking to upgrade. Rosenthal says the team is “pretty much set in the outfield,” though I’d argue that adding another outfielder to complement or even replace J.D. Martinez or Rajai Davis (both of whom were originally acquired to be part-timers) would help the Tigers down the stretch.
Here’s some more from Rosenthal’s video and a separate piece that examines which managers and general managers could be on the hot seat…
- Some of Jon Lester‘s former teammates believe the southpaw will sign with the Cubs this offseason. Lester, of course, has ties to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs’ recent waiver claim of Cole Hamels indicates that the team is prepared to spend big money on a top-tier starting pitcher.
- Had the Padres hired Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, the return of Kevin Towers to the San Diego organization “would’ve been almost automatic.” (The two worked together in New York.) Between Tony La Russa’s hiring in Arizona and the firing of Josh Byrnes in San Diego, rumors have swirled for weeks that Towers would find himself back with the Friars given his friendship with Padres president/CEO Mike Dee. As Rosenthal notes, Towers could still return under new GM A.J. Preller, though rival executives are split as to whether Towers’ presence would be a positive or a negative for Preller as a first-time general manager.
- Bud Black “would be out of work for about five minutes” if Preller decided to make a managerial change. Mike Dee recently told Rosenthal that Preller would decide on Black’s future with the Padres, though the fact that Black’s removal was “never seriously considered” by upper management would seem to bode well for the long-time skipper.
- While Reds GM Walt Jocketty is in the final year of his contract, “there is no indication that Jocketty wants to leave, or that owner Bob Castellini wants him out.” Rosenthal speculates that a reunion between Jocketty and La Russa in Arizona could be a possibility, though Jocketty might prefer to stay with the contending Reds rather than face a rebuilding job with the D’Backs.
- Ruben Amaro’s future as the Phillies‘ GM has been in question given the team’s struggles, which could also mean that manager Ryne Sandberg’s continued employment could also be up in the air. The Hall-of-Famer has “at times looks overmatched, struggling in his communications with veterans and with his in-game management,” Rosenthal writes, though he points out that Sandberg hasn’t been given much to work with on the roster. Sandberg is under contract through the end of the 2016 season.
- Could Jeff Luhnow’s job actually be in jeopardy? Rosenthal isn’t sure, though he notes that “internal tension seems unavoidable” in Houston. The Astros have seen little improvement on the field this season and Luhnow’s front office was widely criticized for its handling of the Brady Aiken negotiations.
- Mike Maddux’s Rangers contract is up at the end of the season, and while extension talks probably won’t take place until then, both Maddux and the team seem eager to see the long-time pitching coach remain in Texas.
Back in February, the D’Backs announced extensions for general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson that ran beyond the 2014 campaign, but the team declined to include the length of either deal, and subsequent reports neglected to shine any light on the contract terms. Now, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that each extension was a “unique” one-year deal that could potentially become longer deals.
There’s been quite a bit of speculation about the job security of both Towers and Gibson, given the club’s poor start to the 2014 season. Tony La Russa has been hired by the D’Backs to serve as the “Chief Baseball Officer” who will evaluate the club’s decision makers.
It remains to be seen how the length of the deals will impact either Towers or Gibson, but surely a one-year commitment could make it easier for the D’Backs to make a change if La Russa determines one is needed. As Heyman writes, Towers doesn’t feel that his role has been altered or reduced to that of a “psuedo-GM” since the hiring of La Russa, though he knows the ultimate decision is out of his hands. “Tony will make the decision,” Towers said to Heyman. “I’m a big boy.”
You probably will not be surprised to learn that Angels star Mike Trout has once again been rated the game’s most valuable asset by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Though he now comes with a long-term financial commitment, Trout has also promised away three more seasons of club control and remains highly underpaid for his services. Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks also made a leap, moving into the third overall slot on Cameron’s top fifty; the entire series is, of course, well worth a read.
Here’s the latest from the game’s West divisions:
- Mariners outfielder (and former second baseman) Dustin Ackley has drawn significant trade interest, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Clubs are interested in a chance at a turnaround from a player who was once one of the game’s top prospects, notes Heyman. With Robinson Cano etched in stone at second and Seattle looking to upgrade its production in the corner outfield, Ackley could theoretically be included as part of a package or dealt away to create roster space.
- The Mariners plan to be on hand to watch Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo in his upcoming showcase, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Of course, that does not mean that Seattle is in a unique position, as GM Jack Zduriencik explains. “Any time there’s someone out there showcasing, we’re going to have somebody there,” said Zduriencik. “This would be no different, but most other clubs will have somebody there as well.” Of course, the M’s are a particularly interesting team to watch with regard to Castillo given the team’s need for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.
- The Giants are considering bringing in just-released second baseman Dan Uggla, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly reports on Twitter. While Marco Scutaro is back on the active roster, it may take some time to determine whether he’ll be a regular, healthy contributor. Indeed, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle said in an appearance on the Sports Virus Podcast that it is “not a real optimistic situation” for Scutaro to hold down the club’s second base job.
- Veteran starter Tim Hudson told Shea at the All-Star break that he and the rest of the club would welcome the addition of an impact player, especially a bat to bolster the lineup. There “wouldn’t be a guy in the locker room” who “wouldn’t be for it,” said Hudson.
- The Padres have not reached out to the Diamondbacks to discuss a possible new role in the organization for current Arizona GM (and former San Diego GM) Kevin Towers, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock. “I know and like him,” said executive chairman Ron Fowler. “He has had a great relationship with many people in all areas of the Padres’ organization. That said, we have not asked for permission from the D’backs to talk to Kevin. I don’t know how this story got started.”
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp doesn’t necessarily want to be traded, but he would welcome a deal that would allow him to man center field on an everyday basis with a new team, agent Dave Stewart told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports yesterday. Rosenthal notes, however, that GM Ned Colletti is a bit hesitant to part with Kemp’s right-handed bat, as that would leave the team with just one surefire right-handed power threat in the everyday lineup in 2015: Yasiel Puig. (Hanley Ramirez, of course, is a free agent at season’s end.) Another major roadblock is the roughly $107MM remaining on Kemp’s contract through the 2019 season.
Here’s more on the Dodgers and the rest of the NL West…
- Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles now debunks one of his own reports, tweeting that he’s been told the Dodgers are not interested in Jonathan Papelbon. Yesterday, a baseball source told Saxon he expected the club to pursue the Philadelphia closer.
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort appeared on 850 KOA-AM radio with Dave Logan and Susie Wargin, and MLB.com’s Thomas Harding provides some highlights from the discussion. Most notably, after Monfort defended GM Dan O’Dowd by saying he judged O’Dowd’s success on more than just the club’s win-loss record, he was asked who should take the blame for the record: “You would have to say it’s [Rockies senior vice president of Major League operations and assistant GM] Bill Geivett,” said Monfort. “He’s responsible for the Major League team. Now, the talent that gets into the Major League team, [that] is the responsibility of scouting and development.” Monfort declined to comment when asked if all of the club’s decision-makers would return next season, but he did say he “stand[s] by the job that everybody does.”
- The San Diego Union-Tribune’s staff runs down the list of each Padres GM candidate and explains the reasons that they have a chance at the job as well as the reason that each could lose out to another candidate. Since the publishing of that article, four candidates have already been eliminated, and the finalists now are Red Sox AGM Mike Hazen, Rangers AGM A.J. Preller, Yankees AGM Billy Eppler and MLB senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng.
- Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Kevin Towers could join the Padres front office as a senior advisor if he his dismissed from his post with the D’Backs. Padres CEO Mike Dee now tells Rosenthal (Twitter links): “Any new hires in the front office will be up to the new GM. Kevin Towers is not a candidate for that position. Thus, any speculation about Kevin rejoining the Padres is just that, speculation.”
There’s been no shortage of coverage on the Diamondbacks since the surprising news that they’d hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa as their new Chief Baseball Officer. Earlier today, one report indicated that opposing teams aren’t even sure whether La Russa or GM Kevin Towers is the go-to contact for trade negotiations. Here’s the latest on their leadership situation…
- Towers appeared on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM earlier today and said that he’s currently not sure how the labor will be broken down among the front office (98.7’s Vince Marotta has highlights and full audio available). The GM said he’s been on a scouting trip and will know more once he is able to sit down and talk with La Russa. Towers said he’s assuming the only current change is that he will report to La Russa instead of CEO Derrick Hall and is hoping not much will change. “I certainly don’t want to be a pseudo-GM,” he said.
- ESPN’s Buster Olney offers a different take in today’s edition of his Insider-only blog (subscription required). “[T]he simple truth,” Olney writes, “is that Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers lost his power when Arizona hired Tony La Russa.” Olney looks back at the surprising lack of stability in Arizona’s front office despite relatively strong success with a modest payroll. He writes that history tells us Arizona ownership will eventually get fed up with La Russa and turn on him.
- Olney’s colleague, Jerry Crasnick, says that one name to watch in potential managerial searches under La Russa’s watch will be Joe McEwing (Twitter link). Currently the third base coach for the White Sox, the former Mets utility player goes back a long way with La Russa.
Rangers left-hander Martin Perez underwent his Tommy John surgery earlier today, and everything “went as expected,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The surgery was performed by Dr. Keith Meister, who performs most of the club’s surgeries. As the Rangers look to deal with that blow to their rotation, here’s more from baseball’s Western divisions…
- For the time being, Padres ace Andrew Cashner has avoided joining Perez on the list of series elbow injuries. Cashner underwent an MRI today, and while that test has conditioned the public to fear the worst, GM Josh Byrnes issued the following statement via press release: “After performing an MRI today on Andrew’s right elbow, our doctors have indicated to me that he has elbow soreness and irritation. Based on our doctors’ recommendation we will be proceeding with rest and rehabilitation for his recovery.”
- Though the Angels will soon need to make roster moves to get Kole Calhoun, David Freese and Dane De La Rosa back on the active roster, releasing struggling DH Raul Ibanez isn’t likely, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. General manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t say Ibanez will not be released, Gonzalez writes, but he expressed that the team will remain patient and voiced confidence in the aging slugger: “Raul has a track record. He has done this before. He has gone through cold spells, and he has gotten hot. There’s nobody here who believes Raul has had his last good days in the big leagues.”
- Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall “can hardly stop pinching [himself]” after the team’s hiring of Tony La Russa as its new chief baseball officer, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. La Russa drew interest from multiple clubs for an executive role and turned down at least one offer, feeling that he wasn’t needed with that team, Heyman adds. He also writes that manager Kirk Gibson has close to a clean slate following the La Russa hire, and that La Russa will give Gibson and GM Kevin Towers until at least season’s end to help get the Snakes back on track.