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Kevin Towers Rumors
Baseball has experienced intense turnover in its front offices of late, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes in a column today, and there could be more to come. Nightengale cites Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners, and Walt Jocketty of the Reds as candidates for dismissal. The frequency of change represents a “new state of the game,” argues Nightengale.
- The Mariners could end up bringing in White Sox president Kenny Williams to head its front office, Nighengale reports. But Williams may also be in the running to become the new president of the Blue Jays. Reds special assistant Kevin Towers also increasingly seems to be an option for Seattle, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
- Zduriencik says that he pays no heed to the rumor mill, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Though he’s aware that there is chatter that he could be vulnerable, the Mariners general manager explains that he can’t let that affect his work. “I’ve got eyes,” said the seven-year veteran GM. “I can see what’s going on here. I know what has not worked and what should be working and isn’t. For me to focus on any outside distractions (is non-productive).” Zduriencik stressed that he still believes in the talent base he’s compiled, explaining: “I think when you start to piece it together, there are things we need to do going forward, but I do think that there are some really solid pieces there.”
- Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides an overhauled, mid-season look at the game’s best prospects. He breaks down a series of different prospect classes. One of those is his list of the game’s premium pre-MLB players, which is made up of the 26 names who separated themselves from the pack. The usual suspects sit atop that list, but there are some quick-rising players as well, including shortstops Orlando Arcia (Brewers, #8), Franklin Barreto (Athletics, #14), and Trea Turner (Nationals, #15), outfielders Bradley Zimmer (Indians, #21) and Gleyber Torres (Cubs, #23), and Rays lefty Blake Snell, who shot all the way up to the 16th slot. McDaniel also lists the year’s newly-emerging prospects, the newly-professional crop of players added over the summer, and the impressive list of young players who no longer qualify as prospects.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America takes a closer look at one such swiftly-rising prospect, Nationals outfielder Victor Robles. The 18-year-old drew the attention of the organization because of his quick-twitch athleticism and high energy, and the club’s $225K bonus has paid out amply so far. It’s a lengthy piece, but well worth a read for any prospect hounds or Nats fans.
Full Story | 13 Comments | Categories: Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Cleveland Indians | Jack Zduriencik | Kenny Williams | Kevin Towers | Milwaukee Brewers | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Seattle Mariners | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals
Earlier this month, the Reds made their front office addition of Kevin Towers official, but that’s far from the only change they made. As MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports, the Reds have also promoted VP of baseball operations Dick Williams to VP/assistant general manager, giving him a larger role in the club’s decision-making process. Presumably, he’ll assume some of the responsibilities of well-regarded veteran AGM Bob Miller, who is now with the Nationals. Promoted to senior director positions were Nick Krall (baseball operations) and Sam Grossman (analytics). As for Towers’ official title, he will be a special assistant to GM Walt Jocketty, as will fellow new hire Jeff Schugel, who worked with Atlanta in a similar capacity last year.
Here are some more Reds notes…
- In a second column, Sheldon examines some free agent outfield options that are on the Reds’ radar or at least should be, in his eyes. Sheldon lists Nori Aoki, Mike Morse, Torii Hunter, Colby Rasmus, Alex Rios and Chris Denorfia as potential fits, though he notes that sources have indicated to him there’s been no contact with Hunter or Denorfia to this point. Interest in Aoki and Morse has been confirmed by Jocketty, but it’s unclear whether the Reds have touched base with Rasmus or Rios.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer looks at how the Mariners’ reported extension of Kyle Seager has increased the price of a potential extension for Todd Frazier. Both third basemen are arbitration-eligible for the first time (or Seager was, prior to his extension, at least). Frazier is a year older than Seager but the two posted very similar batting lines in 2014, have good defensive marks and are comparable in terms of WAR. I’d think Frazier’s case is a bit weaker due to a less consistent offensive track record and the age difference, but the two are certainly comparable. Seager’s extension is said to be worth $100MM over seven seasons.
- In this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, site owner Tim Dierkes chatted with host Jeff Todd about speculation surrounding the Reds and Red Sox as trade partners. The Reds could theoretically benefit from Cespedes’ bat and have comparably priced pitchers to trade, leading some to wonder about a potential deal with Cespedes and Mat Latos. However, Tim posits that Mike Leake could be a safer option for the Red Sox as a centerpiece in a Cespedes trade, given his clean injury history. Leake’s taken a step forward over the past two seasons, pitching to a combined 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings in Cincinnati’s very hitter-friendly stadium. Latos made just 16 starts and lost nearly two mph off his fastball. Tim and I have discussed this scenario as well. We both agree that Leake, who would hit the market at the young age of 28 next offseason, could net his 2015 club a draft pick assuming he isn’t traded midseason and is capable of turning in something in the vicinity of the 104 ERA+ he’s notched over the past two seasons.
NOVEMBER 12: Towers has officially signed on with Cincinnati, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. His title is not yet decided upon.
OCTOBER 24: Former Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers is expected to join the Reds’ front office to work with close friend Walt Jocketty in the near future, sources tell ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link).
The 52-year-old Towers was removed from the role of GM in Arizona and offered a different position within the organization last month, but Towers declined the opportunity in order to seek a different role with another organization. Former player agent and assistant general manager Dave Stewart was named as Towers’ successor, with De Jon Watson jumping from the Dodgers to the D’Backs to serve as senior vice president of baseball operations.
Towers has previously served as general manager of the Padres as well, where he was one of the game’s longest-tenured GMs, occupying that role from 1995 through 2009. Between GM gigs, Towers worked as a special assignment scout in the Yankees front office. He’s known to have a strong scouting background and is described by some as having an old-school approach to the game.
Late last month, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that there were changes coming to Cincinnati’s front office, as assistant GM Bob Miller left the organization, though that split was said to be amicable in nature. A change at the top of the hierarchy doesn’t seem likely in the near future, as Jocketty himself inked a two-year extension in September that runs through the 2016 season.
Here’s the latest off-the-field notes from around the league, as the Royals nurse a misbegotten 4-1 lead.
- The Astros have added former Cardinals scout Charlie Gonzalez as a special assistant, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Gonzalez is not the first Cardinals employee to follow GM Jeff Luhnow to Houston. Drellich lists pitching coach Brent Strom, amateur scouting director Mike Elias and pitching coordinator Dyar Miller as others who moved south with Luhnow. Gonzalez may help to fill recently vacated positions left by Dave Post (now with the Padres) and Marc Russo (with the Braves).
- Assistant hitting coach is the final coaching position the Astros must fill, writes Drellich in a separate article. One name to watch is incumbent Ralph Dickenson. He’s expected to remain with the organization if he is not chosen for the job.
- Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers are long time friends, but don’t expect a reunion in San Francisco, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Understandably, the club is happy with the current management team.
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.”