The Diamondbacks fire Kevin Towers

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In the end, it is not surprising. It is also not unjustified. The Arizona Diamondbacks have fired Kevin Towers as their general manager. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic broke the news in the wee hours this morning. The team is expected to make a formal announcement later this morning. There is no news if manager Kirk Gibson still has a job.

Towers was hired at the end of the 2010 season, and in 2011 the team was fantastic. Winners of 94 games before losing to the Brewers in the NLDS. But the team dipped to .500 in 2012 and repeated with an 81-81 record last year. This year was far worse. As of this writing the Dbacks would have to win every single one of their remaining 23 games in order to finish .500. Obviously not happening.

Many of Towers’ moves can be blamed for the Dbacks’ backslide. He traded away Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for a package of Martin Prado — who is now gone, after Towers locked him up to a long-term deal — and Randall Delgado who has been a disappointment. He traded away pitchers Ian Kennedy, Trevor Bauer, Jarrod Parker and Tyler Skaggs, all of whom have had success away from Arizona. He signed Brandon McCarthy, who was subsequently ordered not to throw his most effective pitch, only to trade him away to the Yankees where he has been successful since being allowed to throw it again. None of the players Towers got back in those trades have flourished in the desert.

Beyond the trades, Towers has brought considerable criticism to the organization in the last two years following public statements about how he wanted players with a certain type of attitude — gritty and hard-nosed — and how he wanted his pitchers to intentionally throw at opposing hitters in order to show that the Dbacks were not themselves easy targets. The former idea was mocked because, in almost all cases, the “gritty, gamer” label is applied to players as a descriptor after they win as opposed to quality that baseball executives seek out over and above, say, baseball talent. Towers claims the plunking thing was misconstrued by the media, but it’s hard to buy that after seeing Dbacks pitchers throw at batters this year under the orders and to the praise of Dbacks manager Kirk Gibson.

Ultimately, though, a GM can survive anything as long as he gets results. Towers has not gotten results in Arizona, and now he’s gone.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.