Kevin Towers, the GM for the Arizona Diamondbacks, currently holds the position of Baseball Dummy, a title that is bestowed upon the worst general manager each year (though Jack Zduriencik is doing his best to take the belt). Previous winners were Brian Sabean, until his Giants won two World Series, and Ned Colletti, for having signed Juan Uribe to be the Dodger's third baseman before Uribe arguably had the best year of his career in 2013.
Towers was already making waves last season when the Diamondbacks traded some of their best pieces in an attempt to ‘grit' up the club in manager Kirk Gibson's image. It's continued this offseason, and after firing pitching coach Charles Nagy for not having his pitchers throw at the opposition, Towers has been trading off young talent for what seems like a minimal return, getting fleeced by White Sox GM Rick Hahn in the process.
Towers started by trading Tyler Skaggs (12th best prospect according to Baseball America coming into 2013) and Adam Eaton (73rd) in a three team deal, netting the powerful Mark Trumbo as well as Brandon Jacobs, a 23-year-old outfielder/DH who had a .291 OBP in his first taste of AA last year.
And yesterday, Towers hooked up with Hahn again, acquiring late-inning reliever Addison Reed for third base prospect Matt Davidson, a move made necessary by Trumbo forcing Prado back to third base full-time.
On paper, it seems like Kevin Towers has already lost. Mark Trumbo has one skill, that being tremendous, earth-shaking power, but his ability to play defense is roughly non-existent. Though Trumbo may be an upgrade over Eaton at the plate, his lack of speed and ability to corral fly balls could easily make this move a wash.
And while Addison Reed has the stuff to succeed in late innings, he has just a 103 ERA+ through 133.2 IP while Davidson hit .280/.350/.481 with 17 HR in AAA before getting his first taste of the majors last year.
Looking at these trades, it seems that Towers, the GM of the Padres for 15 seasons, and in his fourth year at the helm of the Diamondbacks, either:
a) Has been taken over by a robot imposter that only makes bad decisions
b) Had experimental brain surgery and can no longer tell the difference between good and bad
c) Is actually the assistant GM for the White Sox, reporting to Rick Hahn
d) Blackmailed himself into the GM job
All of those are possible. Hell, the robot idea sounds incredibly plausible.
Of course, if Towers hasn't doomed the Diamondbacks to years of irrelevance, we may have to concede that perhaps Towers knows something we don't.
Skaggs, for all of his prospect hype, had a 5.12 ERA in the majors last year, and gave up more than a hit per inning in AAA, his fastball sitting in the upper-80s to low-90s. While Skaggs is still young, that's not exactly what you're looking for in an uber-prospect.
Adam Eaton, though embodying the scrappy-doo attitude of Kirk Gibson, could end up being nothing more than a fourth outfielder, his speed and ability to slash the ball to all fields not showing up in major league games yet.
And Matt Davidson, while there's power potential in the bat, is no guarantee either. Davidson has problems making contact, striking out in 24% of his plate appearances over the last three years, his .831 OPS last season made less impressive given that it came in the extremely heightened offensive environment in Reno (Davidson was fourth on the team in OPS, behind Chris Owings, Ed Easley, and Brad Snyder).
Just look to last year when Towers was seemingly giving players away. He was hauled across hot coals for trading Trevor Bauer, but Bauer pitched only 17 major league innings for the Indians while posting a 5.4 BB/9 in the minors. While you could rightfully question the Diamondbacks for not doing their due diligence when they drafted him, the return of Didi Gregorius gave the team a slick-fielding infielder whose bat can at least keep him in the lineup, even if he's not scaring pitchers.
Cliff Pennington may have done nothing for Arizona last year (.242/.310/.309), but Chris Young didn't help the Athletics either, hitting only .200/.280/.379.
And finally, the biggest move that made us question Towers' judgment and wonder if perhaps he should be put in a mental ward for observation: the Justin Upton trade. Widely panned at the time, it seemed only worse when Upton was hitting .298/.402/.734 with 12 home runs by the end of April. This was the MVP All-World Super Athlete that we had been promised, the one Kevin Towers gave up on.
For the rest of the season though, Upton hit only .256/.343/.409, looking awfully similar to the .282/.333/.417 line posted by Martin Prado. Add in Randall Delgado's performance (4.26 ERA in 116.1 IP), who is expected to hold down a spot in next year's rotation, and Towers doesn't appear to have lost this trade either.
Kevin Towers is certainly not building a team the way I, or most of the internet, would like to see. He is seemingly willing to give up on young, unproven talent in exchange for players that, while they have major league success, lack a high ceiling. That doesn't seem to bode for great success, rather it seems to err on the side of an eternity of .500 seasons, something the team has already done for the last two years.
While grading trades after one season is foolish, especially with young players involved, Towers can hold his head high. Bauer, Upton, Eaton, and Davidson are all young, and could all develop into legitimate starters (or, in Upton's case, a superstar), but so far, Towers hasn't lost yet. He may not be a critical darling, but he's not as dumb as we assume, the Diamondbacks in seemingly safe hands.
Of course, if Kevin Towers was a robot set to self-destruct, that's exactly what he would want us to think.
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