SweetSpot: Kevin Towers
"Not that I don't take any of our guys from a lesser standpoint, but if Goldy's getting hit, it's an eye for an eye, somebody's going down or somebody's going to get jackknifed." -- Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers
According to Towers, the Diamondbacks weren't a disappointment because their outfielders hit the fewest home runs in the majors or the rotation ranked 25th in the majors in strikeout rate or Ian Kennedy was terrible and Miguel Montero had a bad year, but because their pitchers didn't hit enough opposing batters.
Hey, maybe he's on to something, some sort of market inefficiency in violence. After all, the Nationals, Royals, Giants, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, White Sox, Mariners and Rockies hit fewer batters than the Diamondbacks, and only the Rays out of those teams made the playoffs.
And who led the majors in hit batters? The Pirates!
After finishing 81-81, Towers decided to keep Kirk Gibson as manager, but fired first-base coach Steve Sax and pitching coach Charles Nagy. Per Towers' comments, Nagy didn't instill enough toughness in his pitchers. Of course, you can't get rid of all the pitchers, although it sounded like Towers would like to.
"Some of them, contractually, it's tough to move," he said. "But I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it's going to be an eye for an eye and we're going to protect one another."
By the way: Note that this isn't an issue of the Diamondbacks not pitching inside often enough, in the general sense; they actually had the fifth-highest percentage of pitches thrown inside or to the inside part of the strike zone. So Towers isn't demanding the Diamondbacks throw inside more, he's actually demanding that they throw at opposing batters on purpose. (But not to injure!)
But this is the world that Towers lives in. He traded Justin Upton last offseason, not because he wasn't good or talented, but essentially because he had some sort of character flaw, like not showing enough intensity. He traded away top prospect Trevor Bauer because Bauer had the audacity to do things his own way. He signed Cody Ross for $25 million not because Ross is all that great but because Ross is full of grit and intestinal fortitude or whatever you want to call it. He was also a 32-year-old outfielder coming off a career year in Boston mainly because he was able to pop a few extra home runs over the Green Monster.
Look, those deals weren't the reason Arizona failed to win 90 games -- Upton wasn't that great with the Braves and Bauer didn't do anything for the Indians -- but they speak to a mindset: grit and guts over talent. The Diamondbacks' way.
How'd that work out in 2013?
So now the Diamondbacks will add throwing more at opposing hitters, grit on top of grit. Towers cited an incident when MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt got hit and nobody retaliated. OK. You know how many pitches Goldschmidt got hit by in 2013? Three. It's not like opposing pitchers were having target practice at him all season.
But whatever. Easier to blame the pitching coach rather than blame the fact that maybe the team just wasn't good enough.
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.
- In years past, the Padres have been observers of Black Monday. But could that change this Monday as the Padres continue to advance under the ownership transition from John Moores to Jeff Moorad's group?
This is going to be the Padres' first offseason with Moorad as CEO. And recently Moorad said there would be changes in Baseball Operations just as there was in the business end of the franchise last July when 13 members of that staff were fired.
Baseball Operations includes everyone from General Manager Kevin Towers down through the scouts and the support staff.
But Moorad has been mum on what changes might be made.
Three years ago, Towers was given permission to talk to the Diamondbacks about their vacant general manager's position. The CEO at the time was Moorad. Towers became a finalist, but didn't get the job.
Does that help him or hurt him with Moorad today? No one is saying.
Center mentions a few other points:
• The Padres are going to win at least 74 games this season, after winning only 63 last year.
True, but the Padres' run diffential this season is almost identical to last season's.
• The Padres have benefited this season from a bunch of young players.
True, but many of those young players are either not particularly young or not particularly good.
• The Padres have spent very little money on salaries this season, particularly after trading Jake Peavy.
True. Just flat true.
Just two seasons ago, the Padres finished just one pitch short of a third straight playoff appearance. The bottom fell out last season, and the bottom's still out. But Towers has made a couple of solid trades this season, and there really is some talent in the pipeline (though much of it's still two or three years away).
The bottom line, I think, is that Moorad is a strong personality who's been around baseball for a long time and knows what he wants. And it shouldn't be surprising if he wants his own guy running the front office.