Twelve Thoughts: Towers in Arizona, Car-Go and A's, Kirk Gibson's Future
When Towers replaced Randy Smith in late 1995, the rookie GM inherited the future all-time saves leader in Trevor Hoffman and a future Hall of Famer in Tony Gwynn, who would bat an NL-best .353 and .372 in the next two years. Other holdovers were a future unaminous MVP, Ken Caminiti, and a Gold Glove center fielder whose power was emerging, Steve Finley, both affordably signed to multi-year deals; and frontline starting pitchers Andy Ashby and Joey Hamilton cheaply controlled; and a future All-Star catcher in Brad Ausmus.
Prospect Derrek Lee enabled Towers to smartly trade for ace Kevin Brown two offseasons later. What's more, because Padres ownership lusted for voter approval for a new ballpark, the payroll was doubled from 1995-98.
Towers was the right guy, but it was also the right time and place.
• The contract between Towers and the Diamondbacks calls to mind swimmers sticking their toes in a chilly pool.
GMs often get 3-5 years in guaranteed salary, but this pact has only two guaranteed years, followed by four option years. Both sides deemed it wise to limit risk. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, burned several times by hasty and overly optimistic moves, still must pay large sums to former rookie GM Josh Byrnes and former rookie manager A.J. Hinch, who were given guarantees of eight and four years, respectively, and fired in July.
Towers agreed to a lower salary than what he got recently from the Padres but gained flexibility in years, plus escalators based on performance.
• Expect Towers to make significant trades this offseason.
Trading is what he does best. Count on Towers to stir up offers for shortstop Stephen Drew, whose rising salary could make him too expensive for the Diamondbacks. Known by his San Diego staffers as "Willie Waiver Wire," Towers also will put in $20,000 claims. Maybe he'll find another Scott Linebrink.
• Identify the best Dodgers prospect, then expect to hear, "Who?"
Jerry Sands started out in low Single-A this year with only 413 career at-bats, but the 25th-round draftee should now be considered the Dodgers' best prospect. Scouts say Sands' mature hitting approach and all-fields power will give him a fighting chance in the major leagues. A corner outfielder who'll turn 23 next week, Sands may be in Chavez Ravine next summer.
• Baseball benefited when the Oakland A's heard woofs from a top prospect. Part of why the A's traded outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies was, they thought he was a dog (baseball-speak for uncoachable and bored). Gonzalez and his agent Scott Boras aren't complaining with how it turned out, and here at West Coast Bias, I'm pretty tickled with it too.
Dealt to the Rockies for another Boras client, Matt Holliday, Gonzalez thrived in Colorado's great hitting environment after working with hitting coach Don Baylor and is now one of baseball's more entertaining players. Off the field, he gets high marks for maturity, affability and team ethic, which isn't surprising to Diamondbacks personnel who knew him early in his career.
Holliday's big offensive years with the Rockies were a springboard to a $120 million deal with the Cardinals, and it wouldn't surprise me if the so-called dog days with Oakland ultimately help to make Gonzalez a very rich man when he hits free agency. Woof.
• The Rockies would flourish as an NBA club.
They have three stars, which in the NBA translates into playoffs and titles, yet Colorado's quest for a franchise-first division title still could come up empty. Mega-years from ace Ubaldo Jimenez, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Gonzalez haven't fully overcome the roster's prevailing mediocrity.
• West Coast Bias isn't ruling out a VJ Day later this season in SoCal.
For all the talk about how Southern California's only NFL team and its best receiver, Vincent Jackson, are destined to stay at odds contractually, both club and player still have incentive to strike a deal for the season's final six games and beyond. The Chargers have no other receiver as able as Jackson, who by playing the final six games can pull in a lot of money and also increase his value for free agency. It's boring when rich people squabble over money. Strike a deal, gentlemen.
• No longer does his home ballpark give Towers an advantage when he shops for pitchers.
Towers is an astute judge of pitching talent, but San Diego's forgiving ballpark helps to turn nibbling pitchers into attackers. It's also a recruiting tool. Towers, acknowledging the challenge of building a pitching staff in the desert, said he's pleased that Arizona will store baseballs in a humidor next year. So is every National League pitcher.
• The Diamondbacks will shop for arm strength and athleticism.
"With pitchers, you need strength and strikeout ability, maybe not as much pitch to contact, because of the way the park plays," Towers told FanHouse. "Position players, you have to be real athletic, not only in the outfield but in the infield, because of the way the ballpark plays."
• Trevor Hoffman's slow start to the 2010 season likely had deeper roots than iffy form.
Heard this: Hoffman's shoulder was "barking" early in the season. Back then, the worst stretch of his Hall of Fame career sent Hoffman into mid-May with a 13.15 ERA and five blown saves in 10 attempts. The Brewers reliever responded with a 3.16 ERA In his last 33 games. If this is Hoffman's final season, at least it ended fairly well.
• USC's sneaky football coach should sound out a former Trojans football coach about Student Body right and left.
If you gave John Robinson running backs as talented as USC's current top trio, he would've used them to beat down opposing defenses. In the entertaining Pacific 10, which is loaded with snazzy offenses, USC can prevail by going Old School and revving up its power game like Robinson used to do, and like Stanford's Jim Harbaugh did with Toby Gerhart a year ago. A beefier attack would assist USC's so-so defense and accentuate the play-action passing of strong-armed sophomore Matt Barkley.
• Kirk Gibson could remain as Diamondbacks manager.
"He's done some good things," said Towers, who met with the interim manager for nearly two hours on Wednesday.
But if Gibson doesn't pan out, Dodgers Triple-A manager Tim Wallach likely is on Towers' short list, as Wallach greatly impressed the GM four years ago in an interview for the job that went to Bud Black. A name for the future is Padres first-base coach Rick Renteria, once described by Towers as a potential major league manager. Towers has targeted Padres scout Bill Bryk, who is a former development man, and assistant GM Fred Uhlman Jr. for his staff.