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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Is Kevin Towers destroying the D-backs?

By David Schoenfield

An apparently disgruntled Diamondbacks fan has undertaken to "update" Kevin Towers' Wikipedia page (via Dayn Perry of the Eye on Baseball blog). You may think it's funny, but, man, there are a lot of angry fans out there.

It is worth looking at Towers' three big trades over the past two offseasons:

-- Traded rookie pitchers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill to Oakland last offseason for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow. Cahill performed about as expected for Arizona in 2012 -- 200 innings of slightly better than league average performance, worth 2.5 WAR. Parker and Cook, however, were worth 6.4 WAR between them, while making the league minimum. With Parker's potential, right now that deal does look like a great trade for Oakland, assuming Parker stays healthy. But it's not like Cahill is without value.

-- As part of a three-team deal earlier this offseason, Arizona traded away center fielder Chris Young and received shortstop Cliff Pennington and relief pitcher Heath Bell. This deal was pretty widely criticized -- why would anyone want Bell after his implosion in Miami last season? -- and Young has compiled 11.7 WAR after the past three seasons compared to Pennington's 6.3.

-- Just traded Trevor Bauer -- the third overall pick in the 2011 -- as part of another three-team deal that netted shortstop Didi Gregorius. There were other parts, but for Arizona it's really all about Bauer for Gregorius. Again, the general opinion seems to be Arizona gave up too quickly on a pitcher with Bauer's upside; it didn't help that Towers attempted to put his foot in his mouth by comparing Gregorius to Derek Jeter.

Maybe Towers could have gotten more for Young. Maybe he could have gotten more for Bauer. Certainly, it now seems odd that he's traded Young and Bauer to acquire two shortstops. At the same time, you can't be afraid to act, and he acquired Pennington to hedge his bets against not later acquiring another shortstop. And while prospect hounds love Bauer and bloggers love that he does things in his own unique way, it's also possible that Bauer has become overhyped and that Gregorius will hit enough (nobody questions his ability with the glove). Plus, it's not that easy to acquire a young shortstop with the potential to develop into a quality regular. Teams are reluctant to trade those kind of players.

And in the end, why does every trade have to have a "winner" and a "loser"? A trade can be beneficial to both teams (or, in this case, all three teams), even if one club ends up winning the WAR.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I like the roster Arizona has built for 2013, especially if Towers decides to hold on to Justin Upton. The Diamondbacks' run differential was only 23 runs less than the Giants' in 2012, so the base level of talent between the two teams wasn't that different.

OK, we get it: Towers isn't the most sabermetrically inclined of general managers. But the guy also made the playoffs four times as Padres GM and in 2011 as Diamondbacks GM. That's a fair track record of success.