The first point which I noticed was Tony La Russa going out of his way to indicate that the General Manager's position will not be quite the same in Arizona, as it might be with another team - in part, I suspect, because of his presence as an overseer of the GM. I am thinking this might mean they are more willing to go with a candidate who does not have previous experience in the role, and so does not have particularly preconceived notions of what the job "should" entail, or what its responsibilities will be. They will be looking to bring in a general manager who fits the structure of what La Russa call a "unique environment".
It does appear the team is willing to cast a wide net, La Russa saying, "We've tried to put together a list that has a nice cross-section of talents. There will be a variety of backgrounds and experiences." The process of discussion and interviews already appears to be under way, with La Russa already having talked about the position to former pitcher and pitching coach Dave Stewart, with whom Tony has had a long relationship; Other names mentioned included Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque, with permission there having already been granted by St. Louis; Arizona scouting director Ray Montgomery; the Angels' equivalent Hal Morris; and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler.
Whoever gets the job will have input into whether or not Kirk Gibson retains his current position as Diamondbacks' manager. The final decision on that topic will be made by La Russa. With regard to Towers' future, if he decides to stay, La Russa wants to enhance the Diamondbacks' professional scouting side, and believes Kevin has a great background there, and could still be of use to the franchise, possibly overseeing that department. The timing looks to have been in part a desire to get a candidate in place before the end of the season, with the team's obvious lack of contention not presenting any obstacle to the dismissal.
The role of metrics was also discussed. La Russa said, "I think we can beef up the analytical side of the information that we use to compete," while repeating his belief that once the game starts, a manager needs to be allowed to manage as he sees fit, and trust his instincts. However, it "remains to be seen" whether the sabermetric slant comes directly, in the form of a new GM, or is better carried out by another appointment elsewhere in the organization. I get the feeling academic (or other) qualifications in this area are not very high on the list of skills La Russa seeks in a candidate.
I think getting a good jump on the process is probably a good idea, as it allows the team to draw from the widest pool of candidates. Admittedly, it doesn't seem like there will be a great deal of front-office shuffling in baseball this winter, but you never know, and it does no harm to fill the position before any potentially-good names are taken off the market. We saw last winter what happens if you hang around too long before coming to a decision: Masahiro Tanaka turns into Bronson Arroyo. We don't want to end up with the GM equivalent...