Ask any Diamondbacks fan who our GM is, and without fail they’ll give you the correct answer. Ask them the follow on question of “Is he a good GM?” and you’ll get answers that vary greatly. To make the task of understanding Kevin Towers and formulating educated opinions easier, I present to you my latest entry.
Kevin Towers has made a flurry of trades in his reign as the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and since the human brain is more in tune with negative results than positive ones, (think of something you did to get in trouble as a kid; easy, right? Now think of something your parents did to reward you for getting good grades or making the baseball team; it should be more difficult) it’s easier for us to remember the failures than to appreciate the good he has done for this team. As I discuss his history here, I’m not going to include minor moves with players that are basically irrelevant, and never reached a point of relevancy at any time in their careers. Enough of the chit chat, let’s get down to business.
1: April 30, 2011 – Arizona sends Mark Reynolds and PTBNL to Baltimore for David Hernandez and Kameron Mickolio. Mark Reynolds goes on to leave Baltimore a season later for the Indians, only to get DFAd by Cleveland shortly thereafter. Kameron Mickolio spent 1 year with the big club in AZ, throwing 6.2 innings to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, and now pitches in Japan. We all know that the real prize here was David Hernandez – sadly after this dismal season for Hern, many fans seems to have forgotten that in 2011 he threw 69.1 innings and recorded an ERA of 3.38 while striking out ten batters every nine innings of work. He only followed that up with an even better 2012, in which he had an ERA+ of 164 and WHIP of 1.024 while hosting an ERA of 2.50 over 68.1 IP. He had fifteen saves over those two phenomenal seasons, and it’s a shame to Arizona fans seem to forget that without Hernandez, there’s no way we go to the playoffs in 2011.
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: WIN
2: July 31, 2011 – Arizona sends Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto to Oakland for a little piece of gold called Brad Ziegler. Brandon Allen bowed out of the bigs after four years and just over 300 plate appearances, while batting .203. Jordan Norberto threw 6.2 innings in 2011 for Oakland, giving up six earned, and was sent to AAA Sacramento. Oakland gave him a second chance in 2012, where he threw 52 innings and posted an ERA of 2.77. For whatever reason Oakland sent him back to AAA for 2013, and he’s thrown 1.1 innings with an ERA of 40.50. Brad Ziegler on the other hand has been nothing short of a miracle worker for Arizona, coming over at the trade deadline in ’11, throwing 20.2 innings giving up only four earned runs. In 2012, the dominance he displayed at the end of 2011 proved not to be a fluke, while he posted eye popping numbers: 68.2 innings pitched, 2.49 ERA, an ERA+ of 164, with a WHIP of 1.092 while inducing a whopping 21 double play balls. In 2013, he has again worked magic for us, now even working as our full time closer, earning himself seven saves, a 2.52 ERA, throwing 60.2 innings, and allowing only .3 HR/9. In fact, in his entire time in Sedona Red, he has given up only four homers.
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: WIN
3: August 23, 2011 – Arizona sends Kelly Johnson to Toronto for a returning package of Aaron Hill and John McDonald. In the remainder of 2011, Johnson hit at a clip of .270 for Toronto over 115 ABs, which is definitely acceptable for a second baseman. In 2012, he had 581 PAs, hit .225 and drove in 55 runs. These numbers were poor enough for the Jays to let KJ walk at the end of the season, and sign with Tampa Bay in the offseason. So far in 2013 with the Rays, Johnson has hit .248, driven in 50, and hit 16 longballs. Aaron Hill, since coming over from Toronto, has become an elite National League second baseman, and as an entire package player (average, defense, speed, intelligence, power) is rivaled only by Brandon Phillips in the NL. He hit .315 in his 142 PAs as a Dback in 2011, which I will admit even I thought was a fluke until 2012 rolled around and he hit .302 in 668 plate appearances while driving in 85 and hitting 26 homeruns. 2013 has been somewhat hyphenated for Hill as he had a hand injury, but in his limited time with the team his tear has continued to the tune of .316/.526/.909, 35 RBI and nine homeruns. I’m not going to discuss Johnny Mac here, although he did help this team as a utility man for a year and a half, and is slick with the glove.
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: WIN
4: December 9, 2011 – Arizona unloads Ryan Cook, Collin Cowgill, and Jarrod Parker to Oakland for a package of Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow. Over Cook’s two seasons with Oakland, he has been downright filthy coming out of the pen, using his nasty cutter to mow down the wicked American League lineups with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Robinson Cano, etc. In his first season in Oakland, he hurled out 73.1 innings, saved fourteen games, and posted an ERA of 2.09. In his 2013 campaign, he’s thrown 57.1 innings with a 2.20 ERA with an ERA+ of 171. His WHIP in 2013 is 1.116, which is phenomenal, but pails in comparison to his 2012 WHIP of 0.941. Over both seasons with Oakland he has maintained a strikeout rate of about a batter per innings. While Cowgill has become a utility man, bouncing from team to team, the real prize of this trade was Jarrod Parker. in 2012, Parker went 13-8 over 181.1 innings for the AL West Champion Oakland A’s, finishing fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting. This season Parker got off to a rough start, but has since leveled back off, returning to the dominant form he had in the minors and his first full season in MLB. His 2013 numbers are 10-6, 3.58 ERA while posting a WHIP of 1.194. The big piece of the package for Arizona was Trevor Cahill, who didn’t have a terrible inaugural year in Arizona, posting a 13-12 record (mind you, AZ had a poor offensive year, and W/L record is determined in great part by the pitcher’s run support), with a 3.78 ERA, throwing exactly 200 innings. His ERA+ in 2012 was 108, which is only slightly above average. The 2013 season for Cahill has been dismal to say the least, posting a 5-10 record with a 4.39 ERA, and an ERA+ of 86, well below league average. Long story short, we gave up one of the best setup men in the AL along with an up and coming starting pitcher with ace potential for a below average starter with a big salary.
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: LOSE
5: July 29, 2012 – Arizona trades Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss to Houston for Chris Johnson. Borchering hasn’t yet developed into any real kind of talent, and as it stands right now, there is a very good chance he never will. Krauss got up called up to the big club in Houston this year, and has had 77 at bats while hitting .169. Chris Johnson, in his lone ‘year’ (he didn’t make a full season here) with Arizona, had 147 at bats and hit .286.
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: WIN (Extenuating Circumstances – Johnson involved in trade for Martin Prado)
6: October 20, 2012 – This is a three team trade. Oakland sends Yordy Cabrera to Miami. Oakland sends Cliff Pennington to Arizona. Miami sends Heath Bell and cash to Arizona. Arizona sends Chris Young and cash to Oakland. I’m not going to talk about Yordy Cabrera, given for all intents and purposes, he is irrelevant to the Diamondbacks portion of this deal. Cliff Pennington’s numbers are definitely below the level of staggering, eye-popping, or even just ‘good’, but his value cannot really be determined by his numbers, as he is a good clubhouse guys and can play multiple positions. He has also had a few very clutch late or extra inning hits for our club this season. Heath Bell has posted an ERA of 4.21, which isn’t exactly awful for a setup man given their limited innings, but any studied Diamondbacks fan knows the trouble he has caused this team this season. His ERA+ is 90, which is well below league average, and he maintains a ridiculous WHIP of 1.335. He also walks over four batters per nine innings, which is not helping his cause in the least. Chris Young, as we know, was never really a solid hitter, but played reliable defense and provided some pop, often in clutch situations. This year with Oakland, he’s playing statistically VERY solid defense (although most Oakland fans would beg to differ), but is hitting a measly .189 over a few hundred plate appearances. His value as a defender, however, is still there. Had this trade been a two team trade between Oakland and Arizona that swapped Pennington and Young, I would mark it as a win for Arizona, but because of the amount of money Heath Bell is paid (and is still owed)…..
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: LOSE
7: November 20, 2012 – Diamondbacks sent Ryan Wheeler to Colorado for Matt Reynolds. Before Reynolds went down with a slight tear in his UCL (the ligament in the elbow that is repaired during TJ surgery), he had thrown 27.1 innings with an ERA of 1.98. His ERA+ was a ridiculous 194, and a WHIP of 1.098 looked pretty sharp as well. His chances of returning at full strength when camp breaks next year are good, and Ryan Wheeler has only had about twenty plate appearances in Colorado, batting .211, which leads to a verdict of:
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: WIN
8: January 24, 2013 – Arizona sends Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to Atlanta for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, and Brandon Drury. Justin Upton has been his regular old self, an extremely talented, yet streaky, player – yet at the same time he is the bat Atlanta wanted. He’s .265 with 64 RBI and 24 jacks for Atlanta, which are very good numbers for a club with a lineup stacked full of guys that do the same thing. Now that he doesn’t have to carry the club on his shoulders, he can perform like an above average power bat, which is all he was ever meant to be. Chris Johnson, on the other hand, is doing ridiculous things in Atlanta this season: .329/.465/.829 slash with 58 RBI and 10 HR. His batting average is phenomenal, but fear not Dbacks fans, his slash line is about average for a decent bat, and don’t forget he’s got protection. Opposing teams would much rather pitch to Johnson, risk him getting a single or double, than pitch to Upton/Freeman/Heyward/McCann who can absolutely mash. Chris Johnson is an average hitter, with little to no pop, always has been, and always will be. He plays below average defense at 3B, along with below average range. On to Arizona’s new (after this trade) third baseman: .284/.422/.759 on the season, another decent slash line, especially considering his struggles at the beginning of the season, and the fact that he’s not a power guy. Given a full season of production as he’s shown since post ASG, his slugging and OPS would be very close to that of Johnson’s, and his BA would be hovering right around .300. More importantly, however, is his ability to play multiple positions, and play them well. He does have below average range at every position with the exception of 3B, which is where he spends the majority of his playing time anyway, and maintains a .979 FPCT at 3B. Johnson’s you ask? A very, very poor .944. Randall Delgado is 4-4 with a 3.87 ERA, a 1.423 WHIP, and is striking out almost seven guys per nine. His biggest problem thus far is his susceptibility to the longball, but as he learns to command his stuff, those numbers will be drastically reduced. His BB/9 average in Atlanta was right around four, yet he has it down to 1.8 here in Arizona, so everything looks to be on the up and up, and appears to be yet another pitching grab by Kevin Towers. Zeke Spruill has struggled at the big league level so far, his ERA sitting at 5.56 as he constantly bounces between AAA Reno and the big club. Arizona seems to be converting Drury to 3B, as the organization lacks depth at the position, and at South Bend A ball, he’s hitting .304/.505/.869, and the jury will be deliberating on this young man for at least 4-5 years. Nick Ahmed is a middle infielder hitting .230/.311/.595 in AA Mobile. I wish I could say his strong point is fielding as he is weak with the lumber, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
TRADE RESULT FOR ARIZONA: DRAW
I do realize the Ian Kennedy trade should be included, but I think the only way to judge that trade is to see Matt Stites pitching in Arizona’s minor league system for longer than a month. I do know this: his stuff is filthy, he commands it, and he has the potential to be a future lockdown closer. In my opinion, however, just the mere fact were able to offload Ian Kennedy makes this trade a success.