Thoughts on the extensions of Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

So, no "lame duck" GM and manager for the 2014 season, with both Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson being extended. For how long and how much, we don't know.

It's an interesting decision, considering that the team pointedly decided not to extend those same contracts just a few months ago. There was no comment at that point from the Diamondbacks' owners or president Derrick Hall, but it immediately created a fairly consistent belief among outsiders that both Towers and Gibson had their jobs on the line, with results in 2014 determining their future employment prospects. Ken Kendrick subsequently said, "I'm comfortable with those guys," but added pointedly, "I think it's important for them to go out and prove themselves once again."

Some of the moves subsequently made appear to have supported the viewpoint that the team had shifted into "win now or else" mode, with future potential apparently being traded for more immediate contributions e.g. Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton for Mark Trumbo, Matt Davidson for Addison Reed, David Holmberg traded for addition by subtraction in the absence of Heath Bell. I was somewhat staggered to discover that, of the top five prospects listed on John Sickels' 2013 list for the Diamondbacks, four left the team in less than two weeks this off-season, between December 3-16, with only Archie Bradley remaining.

On that basis, one wonders if this move counts as barring the farm system door after the prospects have bolted, so to speak. It's hard to imagine Kendrick et al being so impressed with the moves made this winter that they decided Towers had now earned an extension he didn't deserve in October. Certainly, Towers denied he operated this winter any differently due to the contract situation, but admitted it was an issue:  "It would have been a distraction for me, but more so with a guy like Gibby, who has to manage young ballplayers. Sometimes players look at it differently. Whether I am on a seven-year or 10-year contract, I feel on the hot seat every year. I feel pressure every year."

Gibson and Towers

One thing I do note is that it once again ties Gibson and Towers at the hip: their original three-year extensions were announced simultaneously, and there's no doubt that Towers was heavily involved in the decision to transition Gibson from provisional to permanent manager at the end of the 2010 season. This can work for or against them. If the team performs well - as they did in their first full season together - then the glory is to both, regardless of who was "genuinely" responsible. But if things go badly, it means both will be tarred with the failure, and it feels to me if one were to go, so would the other - just as we saw in the twin firings of Josh Byrnes and A.J. Hinch.

That kind of double-barreled approach to dismissals isn't actually very common at all: it's usually the managers who take the brunt of any blame. As Nick Piecoro pointed out last month, only one organization (the Marlins) have a GM or equivalent fired since 2011, but a full dozen teams - 40% of the league - have a different manager than the one in charge at the end of the 2012 season. I don't think the extension actually makes that much difference to what the owners expect from KT and Gibby this season, and while it may remove the "lame duck" tag, a losing record will still inevitably lead to speculation about their tenure with the club.

The confidentiality clause

"I’ve thought all along, I don’t understand sometimes why people in management, why their contracts are public knowledge,. I think it’s something that people don’t need to have. It’s between myself, Derrick, Ken and Gibby. It’s really not something I plan on sharing with, not just you guys, but I don’t plan on sharing with the rest of my baseball-operations staff."
-- Kevin Towers

Hmm. I must admit, he's right: there's no "need to know" about this - but there is certainly an "interested to know." Not so much about the money, because that's almost certainly going to be relatively small beer, compared to the team's total payroll. If I'd to guess, somewhere around the cost of a 2014 Josh Collmenter, although that's just a wild stab in the dark. But the length of the contract, is something which would appear to be of relevance. It would be a good indicator of how much faith the team has in them: based on the fact the options were not exercised in October, signs indicate not very much.

One suspects that, just as Towers is reluctant to sign pitchers for longer than three years, Kendrick and the other owners are probably unwilling to sign a GM for too long a period. They probably still remember the Josh Byrnes contract - one which we will still be paying through the end of next season, having been given an eight-year deal in February 2008. That was on the back of our NL West title the previous campaign, but not much more than two years later, things had gone south so badly, that he and Hinch were terminated. So the wheel of fortune turns, and I think Kendrick will remember this.

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