Former Padres, Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers dies at age 56

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Sad news, passed along by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale: former San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has died. He had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in late 2016.

Towers was a college baseball star who was drafted as a pitcher by the Padres in 1982. After several years in their minor league system he retired due to various arm injuries, becoming a Padres scout in 1989. Towers was hired by the Pirates as a scout in 1991 and returned to San Diego to become the club’s Scouting Director in 1994. He took over for Randy Smith as the team’s General Manager in November of 1995.

Towers led the Padres front office for 14 years, experiencing highs and lows. Under his watch the Padres won four division titles and the 1998 National League pennant. They also finished last on several occasions. Many of the downs during his tenure were attributed to team ownership’s unwillingness to spend money, however, and Towers continued to be well-respected within the industry regardless of how the Padres fared.

Notable draft picks under Towers watch were Jake Peavy, Corey Luebke, Khalil Greene and Xavier Nady. He didn’t often have a lot of money to sign free agents, but he did snag a couple of big names at the end of their careers, including Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Mike Piazza and Greg Maddux.

Towers was better known as a wheeler-dealer, and made many notable trades. Among them: acquiring Wally Joyner from the Royals in 1995, acquiring slugger Greg Vaughn from the Brewers in 1996, acquiring Phil Nevin from the Angels in 1999, acquiring Brett Boone and Ryan Klesko from the Braves in 1999, trading Jason Bay to the Pirates and, perhaps most notably, trading Hideki Irabu — who refused to play for the Padres — to the New York Yankees in 1998.

Towers was finally let go by San Diego in 2009, after which he spent two years as an advisor in the Yankees front office. In 2011, he succeeded Jerry Dipoto as General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

His tenure in Arizona was likewise characterized by ups and downs. The ups: the team won 94 games and the National League West Division title in his first season in charge, just one season after finishing in last place with 97 losses. The downs: in 2013 Towers became embroiled in controversy after it was revealed that he demanded his pitchers throw at opposing batters, leading to the firing of pitching coach Charles Nagy, who protested Towers’ instructions. Towers weathered that storm, but he was eventually fired in September 5, 2014 by Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa, who brought in Dave Stewart to replace Towers.

Towers was offered a job in the organization in another capacity but declined it, choosing instead to take a scouting position with the Cincinnati Reds, which he held until his cancer diagnosis.

Towers was 56 year-old. For an excellent, touching tribute to Towers, go check out this story by Tim Brown of Yahoo.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.