Can Kevin Towers coexist with Tony La Russa in Arizona?

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The first thought I had when Tony La Russa was announced as the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer yesterday was that general manager Kevin Towers might resign.

I mean, how else can one take the hiring of La Russa as anything other than a demotion of sorts — or at least a vote of non-confidence — in Towers? Towers was the top baseball voice in Arizona, answering to Derrick Hall, the Dbacks’ CEO. Now there is another baseball operations-only guy above him. All this while Hall and the team’s owner, Ken Kendrick, says that Towers and manager Kirk Gibson remain “in an evaluation period.” That’s the sort of dynamic that causes guys with established track records and reputations to say “You know what? I don’t need this. Later, dudes.”

But I’m remembering that this isn’t the first time Towers has been in this situation. Indeed, he had almost the exact situation happen to him when he was the GM of the San Diego Padres. He took that job in 1995 after Randy Smith nearly destroyed the franchise. After a decade at the helm — during which he helped lead the Padres to four division championships and a pennant — Sandy Alderson was brought in as the Padres’ CEO and Towers was forced to answer to someone else like he’s supposed to answer to La Russa now.

That sent Towers out to interview with the Diamondbacks and to be publicly tied to the Dodgers as well. In the end the prospects outside of San Diego appeared to be pretty dicey, and he returned to the Padres where he remained in the job for four more years, answering to Alderson. And Paul DePodesta and other folks Alderson brought in as well to varying degrees.

Was Towers’ ability to check his ego and submit to people brought in, in part, to fix the things he messed up something he did naturally, or was it a function of him being comfortable and not having better options? Will he even have the chance to do that in Arizona, or will La Russa and Hall show Towers the door after this season?

There’s no way to answer that now — Towers was giving diplomatic quotes yesterday and, officially anyway, is said to be onboard with the La Russa thing — but based on his history, Towers is one of the few high-profile general managers who has had this happen to him before and accept it with at least something approaching equanimity.

It’ll be interesting to watch this going forward.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.