It is a curious feeling, having been wanting and waiting for this to happen for quite some time. I think the point I finally lost patience with Towers was the trade for Mark Trumbo. To me, it addressed a largely irrelevant issue, not enough home-runs, as the number of strikeouts had been proclaimed the cause of our woes earlier. Worse, he horrendously overpaid for those dingers: If Trumbo had cost Tyler Skaggs OR Adam Eaton, that would have been a marginal, probably not egregious overpay. Losing both, for a one-dimensional hitter, seemed so wildly wrong-headed to me, that I was basically done with KT at that point.
But that was just the final nail in the coffin of my confidence in Towers. I don't think he was necessarily a bad GM - though he now joins Josh Byrnes in the "been fired by both the Padres and Diamondbacks club". I do think he was a bad GM for a team in the Diamondbacks' situation. Towers is a very conservative operator, appearing to prefer lower upside with a lower certainty of failure. We saw that in trades like the one of Jarrod Parker for Trevor Cahill, where we exchanged the potential of Parker for a "proven starter" in Cahill. The Upton for Prado deal appears cut from the same cloth, as does the Trumbo one.
That isn't the approach a team like the Diamondbacks need, and i think we saw in 2012 and 2013, when the team finished exactly at .500, where that tends to lead: mediocrity. It probably works better on a team with a larger payroll, where you can compete for the top level assets in the free-agent market. But, as we saw with our pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, before he mysteriously changed into Bronson Arroyo, the Diamondbacks can't. And the talent assessment often seemed suspect when it came to the lower-tier. Jason Kubel, Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross, all turned from jewels around our neck into albatrosses before their time here was done.
I'm increasingly convinced that the team needs to spend smarter, not harder. Guard the prospects you have, acquire more of them where possible. Sure, not every one will pan out, far from it - but that's why the more of them you have, the better the odds. Be aware of aging curves: a player can still be good after they turn 30, but the odds are, you'll be overpaying, with a cost based on their peak years. And, above all else, leverage any non-financial advantage you can find through analysis, whether that's through defensive shifts, lineup construction or advanced player evaluation. We've tried the old-school approach and found it wanting. Time for something different.
It will be interesting to see what happens now. The obvious questions are, who will replace Towers, and what will happen to Kirk Gibson? It's an odd situation for the replacement, who will find himself, at this point, coming in to a position subject to supervision from above, and with a "sitting tenant" manager below him. I'm not sure there will be many people interested in such a position, and that may be why early buzz has suggested Tony La Russa may end up dipping back into his former organization in St. Louis. Will it work? Can't argue with the success of the Cardinals, on pace for their 7th season with 86+ wins. But whether that can work for the D-backs, is another question.
We'll dig more into Towers' time with the D-backs in due course, and there's a press conference this afternoon, which should shed some light on the thought process for the dismissal, its timing and the way forward for the Diamondbacks. Stay tuned to the SnakePit...