Perhaps the reputation is too powerful.
Here’s Kevin Towers, the Diamondbacks’ general manager, and a man holding a fair amount of cards.
As baseball’s Winter Meetings begin Monday, Towers is known to be aggressive in dealing and obtaining personnel as well as using a jack-hammer to break up a roster.
After two consecutive seasons playing .500 baseball, Towers, and his Diamondbacks’ front office associates, are expected to wheel-and-deal for an outfielder with pop in his bat and a starting pitcher. Plus, who knows what else will cross Towers’ fertile mind.
We all know the names out there and Towers’ penchant for making headlines.
Yet, over the last two seasons, Towers and field manager Kirk Gibson continuously told reporters the Diamondbacks are close to making a competitive run.
So, let’s be naive and take them at their word.
One caution, though. If this is to work, Gibson in particular, needs to change.
Gibson has a penchant for constantly changing the batting order and trying to fit all 25 players in one game. Telling reporters during the season he tries and gives most players equal playing, Gibson rarely settles on a structured line-up. That puts the D-backs' skipper at a disadvantage because he cannot create “ a firm character base,” and fuse a team “chemistry” into a steady, winning club.
Of an essential need, Towers wants to pursue a pitcher and seek to improve the rotation. Many times, teams improve by subtracting and just trying to move pitches Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill, Towers could aid the team.
Yet, Towers will likely be just the opposite.
“We plan to be very active,” he said on a recent conference call with reporters. “The hope is we’ll be a better team for 2014 after we leave (Lake Buena Vista, Fla., site of the winter meetings). At this point, I can’t say if I’ll trade for a pitcher or an outfielder. We’ll probably wait for the best deal.”
Because the team underachieved the last two years, that reality seems to dictate action.
Personnel currently in place on the Arizona roster remain competitive. Plus, the Diamondbacks have a solid corps of veteran players returning, and with a proper perspective and set of clear conditions, could succeed.
Clearly, the Dodgers will not have that magical run (winning 42 of 50) at one point last season, and the Giants appeared to improve their pitching staff just by keeping Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong.
Perhaps Towers doesn’t have to pull the trigger and recognize, if the lineup is set and not tinkered, the Diamondbacks could have a legitimate chance to be competitive.
Around the team, talk is centered around a plethora of quality infielders and outfielders. If Towers and Gibson make a commitment to the players here and steadfast in the approach of playing “small ball,” the approach will change and perhaps the results.
True, Towers is out to find a bat to hit behind Paul Goldschmidt, the reigning National League RBI leader. If that’s not successful, and opposing pitchers pitch around Goldschmidt, the table would be set for Miguel Montero, who would be provided a key bat in the lineup.
Committed to Adam Eaton leading-off and playing left field and A. J. Pollock hitting second in center-field, the Diamondbacks could establish “an identity” and “character” to the 2014 team. This vision would rely on the speed of Eaton and Pollack to set the table for Martin Prado, Goldschmidt and Montero.
Two areas for Towers, though, is an aggressive push to bring back infielder Eric Chavez and recognize outfielder Cody Ross may not be ready for Opening Day March 31 at Chase Field against the Giants.
In reality, the Diamondbacks open the 2014 season in Sydney, Australia against the Dodgers and if Ross is marginal at that time (March 22 and 23), that should Gibson a clear window on his health.
In the meantime, Towers recognized the notion of improvement by subtractions.
That’s when he dealt reliever Heath Bell to the Rays as part of a three team deal. That same approach should be given to McCarthy and Cahill but Towers will likely find no takers.
At the start of last season, reliever Will Harris thought the Diamondbacks, “had one of the top bullpens in baseball.” On paper that observation looked rosy but the bullpen imploded and eventually set-up reliever Brad Ziegler assumed the closer role.
If Towers is out to improve the Diamondbacks through a few days of personnel transactions, he could best be served by conceding a limited talent base out there in baseball land and take a deep, internal look for the talent level about to gather at Salt River.
ON THE ICE
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt will drop the opening puck this Saturday at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m.
Just before the Phoenix Coyotes take on the Carolina Hurricanes, Goldschmidt will be tapped for the honors.
Outfielder Adam Eaton is a huge hockey fan and usually found at Jobing.com Arena for most Coyotes home games. The two have communicated.
“I know Adam is a big fan and we’ve talked,” Goldschmidt said late last week at a Diamondbacks’ charity event. “The Coyotes are off to a good start and it should be fun.”