In 2005 when the Arizona Diamondbacks named Josh Byrnes as the general manager to replace the departing Joe Garagiola, the runner-up for the job was Kevin Towers.
At the time Towers was the general manager of the San Diego Padres, but he felt so strongly about the Diamondbacks job that he asked for permission to interview in Arizona and was granted it by San Diego owner John Moores.
Now, five years later with Towers no longer needing to ask for permission to interview, he has the job that he coveted back in 2005 as he edged out interim GM Jerry DiPoto for the general manager job. Towers will sign a two-year deal with the Diamondbacks holding a two-year option on Wednesday.
Towers’ experience in building a roster, constructing a bullpen, evaluating talent, scouting, networking, trades and his reputation as a tireless worker and relationships in the industry were too much for the Diamondbacks to pass over this time around.
DiPoto, who pulled off four successful trades at the deadline to add young pitching talent while shedding some $47 million in salary off of the D-backs payroll, was seriously considered and the Diamondbacks are hoping that he may stick around in some capacity because they have high regard for him and value what he did for the team in the wake of the Josh Byrnes firing.
But make no mistake about this, all decisions going forward, including who will be the manager, will be made by Towers. He will have the authority to reshape the Diamondbacks franchise in the image he sees fit. Towers will spend the next few weeks evaluating the staff and interim manager Kirk Gibson. The Diamondbacks brass likes Gibson and have spoken highly of him to Towers, but it will be Towers sole decision on if Gibson stays or is let go.
A name that could be considered if Gibson is let go is current Padres first base coach Rich Renteria. Towers, who took over as San Diego General Manager in 1995, led the Padres to four National League West Division titles and to the 1998 World Series. He was let go in 2009.
Arizona is threatening to lose 100 games this season and in the process, shattering the record for most strikeouts in a season. After losing 92 games last year, the Diamondbacks desperately wanted to make a splash with the GM hire and wanted someone who could make a difference and pay immediate dividends. Towers did a nice job with the Padres bullpen, pulling off trades for Heath Bell, whom he stole from the Mets for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins in 2006 and Luke Gregerson in 2009 whom he got from St. Louis for disappointing Khalil Greene.
Let’s also remember he stole Adrian Gonazlez and Chris Young from the Texas Rangers in 2005 for Adam Eaton, Billy Killian and Akimori Otsuka. And more recently he and made a very nice value deal in sending Jake Peavy to the White Sox for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter.
Towers has a nice track record on making quality trades and finding low-end pitchers with something to prove. Having a pitchers park like Petco definitely helped and Chase Field is anything but a pitchers park so Towers will have his work cut out for him in fixing this bullpen, but based on track record he should be able to do it.
Towers shortcomings and the only real scar on his resume are his drafts, in which he overall has failed miserably. First round busts under Towers include — 1995, Matt Halloran, 1996 Kevin Nicholson, 1999 San Diego had six first round picks, Vince Faison, Gerik Baxter, Omar Ortiz, Casey Burns, Mike Bynum and Nick Trzesniak. Baxter died killed in a car crash. Bynum was the only one to make it to the majors and he went 7-12; 2000 Mark Phillips, 2001 Jake Gautreau, 2004 Matt Bush, 2006 Cesar Carillo and Cesar Ramos, 2007 another six first-round picks (Nick Schmidt, Kellen Kulbacki, Drew Cumberland, Mitch Canham, Cory Luebke and Danny Payne), 2008 Allan Dykstra. Towers will need to do a better job here and will have an opportunity to do it right away because Arizona will have two first-round draft picks in 2011.
All in all the D-backs couldn’t have gone wrong with either Towers or DiPoto, both quality baseball guys with a passion for what they do. DiPoto will be a general manager someday and that will be sooner rather than later. In the meantime Towers can get to work on some of the tough decisions he will face this offseason.
To keep Mark Reynolds or trade him. To pick up Adam LaRoche’s option or let him walk. To allow Brandon Allen to play everyday at first base or left field. To find a veteran leader to play where Allen doesn’t. To add another quality starter to the rotation to replace Rodrigo Lopez. And to find a setup guy and a closer at the back end of the bullpen. Lots of work to be done, but if anyone can do it it’s Towers.