Kevin Towers Hiring Shows That Cincinnati Reds Just Don’t Get It


Jun 27, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks genersal manager Kevin Towers (center) speaks with reporters before a game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Update, November 25, 2014: 

According to David Clark at the Cincinnati Enquirer, Towers has been officially hired as a Special Assistant/Player Peronnel.

God save the Queen (City).

At the general managers’ meeting in Phoenix yesterday, Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty dropped a bombshell: he is hiring former Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers to serve in some capacity in the Reds’ front office. This move has been rumored for weeks, but its consummation is a clear indication that the Reds brain trust is not positioned to lead the franchise for the long term.  

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According to J. Gordon Hylton at Marquette, who curated 2012 census statistics to rank Major League Baseball market sizes, Cincinnati is the fourth smallest market in the game, ahead of only Milwaukee, Kansas City and Cleveland, and right behind Pittsburgh. In contrast, the Reds opened 2014 with the Majors’ 12th highest payroll, rubbing elbows with the Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s great that the Reds have been able to pony up more bucks in recent season, but they have become salary-bound by big, long contracts in the process, as Jocketty tells anyone who listens.  Their ability to contend in 2015 is severely hampered, and the years beyond are looking bleak.

Now, to help him push the team forward, Jocketty brings in Towers?

Not to invoke the cronyism card, but Jocketty and Towers are both “old-school” types of guys who seek to fill their rosters with proven veterans, professional hitters, pitchers who know how to win and just about every other baseball cliche personified. As Jocketty puts it, Towers “has a great background in scouting,” which is enhanced by “the people he knows.”

Scouting is absolutely still a vital part of building a successful team, but if Moneyball taught us anything it’s that small teams have  to do more than that if they want to win consistently. They need to find systematic ways of taking advantage of trends that other teams don’t know about. Then, by the time the other teams DO learn about these “inefficiencies”, the small market teams are already on to the next thing.

The Reds don’t do this, and neither does Kevin Towers.  He is very much Jocketty the Younger.

This spring, Jeff Wiser at Inside the `Zona put together an excellent and prescient article on Towers’ legacy with the Diamondbacks.  I recommend that you read Jeff’s piece for the full picture, but one the main thrusts is that Towers builds his rosters by focusing on traditional, but largely meaningless and limiting categories. In short, Towers wants to have field a team of power hitters, role players, innings-eaters and closers.

Towers enforced this structure so rigidly that he systematically dismantled a young and promising D’Backs roster in order to fit the gritty, fireball mold favored by former Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, and, apparently, by Towers himself. Even though he was writing six months before the axe came down, Wiser knew the writing was on the wall clearly explained the organizational anemia that Towers had wrought.

And now, Reds fans, it looks like Towers is all ours.  He has experience!  He has scouting knowledge!  He has a “name”!

The best part is, if owner Bob Castellini should decide that Jocketty isn’t quite cutting it, or if Jocketty retires or moves on for some reason, we have a ready replacement.   He’s in-house!

We’re set for years.