Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/8/14
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has been a MLB executive for 16 years.  As the San Diego Padres GM, Towers oversaw four division champions and a trip to the World Series. During his first two years in Arizona, the D-Backs won a surprising division title after losing 97 games the previous season.  Some might take issue with this, but it seems safe to say that Towers is rather darn good at his occupation. Guys generally don't stick around for 16 years in a job if they're terrible at it. Yet despite Towers' impressive résumé, could he end up being defined as the general manager that traded Justin Upton while he was on the verge of becoming a major league superstar?  Three weeks into the 2013 season, this transaction isn't looking so good for Towers and the Diamondbacks. Upton leads MLB with eight home runs and .852 slugging percentage. His 1.245 OPS is tops in the National League. He's a significant reason for the Atlanta Braves beginning their season with a 12-2 record, the best mark in baseball.   To be fair, it will be a few years before we can determine whether or not Towers really made a good trade. Dealing an established player typically brings prospects in return. It remains to be seen whether or not the young talent Arizona received will develop into major league contributors. But the initial reaction is to say Towers didn't make a good deal because he traded away the best player. Even worse, the D-Backs didn't get a future star in the exchange. That judgment might depend on which minor league analysts you choose to follow. According to Baseball America, Arizona received three of the Braves' top 10 prospects. That sounds like a pretty good return. Yet ESPN's Keith Law viewed Randall Delgado as a future back-of-the-rotation starter, Zeke Spruill as a pitcher that doesn't miss many bats with his stuff, Nick Ahmed as a great fielding shortstop that doesn't hit and Brandon Drury as a non-factor.  Arizona did receive an established major league player in Martin Prado. Prado is an extremely valuable player who can play third base, second base and left field. This season, he's even played an inning at shortstop for the D-Backs. For a team that's been seeking a starting third baseman since Mark Reynolds and his 200 strikeouts per season were traded to the Baltimore Orioles after the 2010 season, Prado provided much needed stability. He's a near-.300 career hitter who doesn't strike out, knows how to draw walks and even hits for some power.  But while Prado is the sort of player every MLB team needs, an exceptional role player who can help tie a lineup together, he's not really a difference maker. He's not the sort of hitter that can change a game's outcome with one swing or carry a struggling batting order, as Upton has for the Braves this season. Yet perhaps Arizona doesn't want a star. More specifically, they don't appear to want someone who carries those sorts of expectations and might wilt under them. Maybe the D-Backs don't want to cater to someone who believes he's the best player on a team and should be treated accordingly.  That's speculation, of course. But judging from the remarks several D-Backs players and executives made to CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler in a recent article, one could draw such conclusions.  Teammate Eric Hinske referred to Prado as "the best player in baseball." Owner Ken Kendrick said the D-Backs were "proud" to have Prado. Towers added that Prado "always has the right answer." What did he mean by that? "Where do you want to hit in the order?" Towers said to Knobler. "Wherever. Where am I playing today, second base? OK." Of course, that might just be an outright compliment for Prado and not a veiled criticism of Upton. But when a team trades a 25-year-old player who put up MVP-caliber numbers in two of his first five full MLB seasons, it tends to raise an eyebrow. Such a transaction is even more perplexing when Upton's contract situation is taken into consideration. Upton was under contract for three more seasons for a total cost of $38.5 million. An average of $12.8 million is less than the $15 million per season the Braves agreed to pay Justin's brother, B.J., for the next five years. That sort of cost control is what nearly every MLB team covets in a young player. Yet the D-Backs traded it away. Towers spent most of his two years as Arizona's GM constantly dangling Upton in front of his fellow big league executives. It was like his hobby. Some of us play Solitaire or check Facebook when we're bored. Towers would put Upton back on the trade block and keep the MLB trade rumor mill churning.  Most of the offseason scuttlebutt said that Towers wanted a major league shortstop in return for Upton. The Rangers' Jurickson Profar and Braves' Andrelton Simmons were among Arizona's rumored targets. Yet neither team was willing to give up such a player for Upton. Under those circumstances, most GMs would hold on to their star. If you can't get the deal you want, then don't make a deal. Yet Towers was obviously determined to trade Upton, even if he couldn't get the shortstop he coveted.  (Maybe Didi Gregorius, the shortstop acquired in a three-team deal with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians, is that player. But there are questions as to whether he'll hit well enough to be a starting MLB shortstop.)  Did Towers want to trade Upton because he thought he'd get a load of young talent in return? Did he and others in the D-Backs' organization think he wasn't enough of a team player? Did Arizona manager Kirk Gibson dislike Upton's approach to the game, preferring that his young outfielder go all out and slam into a wall when necessary, as a source told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal? Was Upton not "grinding and gritty" enough?  Towers might be right. Perhaps it wouldn't have worked out for Upton in Arizona this year and he needed the proverbial change in scenery. Maybe Upton needed to play in a place where the expectations placed upon him weren't so high. It's entirely possible that playing with his brother makes a huge difference too.  However, when Towers says, "We needed a new identity, instead of being Justin Upton and the Diamondbacks," it implies that he — and Gibson — want everyone to buy into a team concept. They don't want anyone to stand out.  Maybe that whack-a-mole approach to roster construction will ultimately work out for the D-Backs. However, this trade could also end up whacking Towers.  With an 8-6 record going into Thursday's play, Arizona is in the early NL West race. Success in upcoming series against the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants could ensure that they'll stay in contention. Winning is the only thing that will provide affirmation and make Towers look good in the end. 
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Bill Belichick gives understated scouting report of Tom Brady

Five teams that failed to improve this offseason

Steelers fans were more profane on social media

Seahawks praise Tom Brady's trash-talking ability

Richard Sherman's girlfriend talks possible Super Bowl baby


DeMarco Murray: I don't pay attention to being replaced

Bucs believed to be going for Marcus Mariota with No. 1 pick

Report: Wrigley Field renovation causing massive rat problem

Rex Ryan praises Patriots, calls Deflategate 'unfortunate'

Brady hopes Peyton Manning comes back next season

Report: Thibodeau’s relationship with Bulls 'beyond repair'

DeMarcus Cousins calls out writer for five-year-old tweet

What if Drew Bledsoe didn't get injured in 2001?

Who should make up the 2015 Hall of Fame class

WATCH: Porn sounds played during Predators broadcast

Five worst teams to win a Super Bowl

Matt Damon, Ben Affleck defend Patriots on Kimmel

Watch: John Oliver tackles the Super Bowl

The Washington Redskins and their forgotten dynasty

WATCH: Katy Perry cracks Deflategate, Marshawn jokes

Devon and Leah Still write a book for kids fighting cancer

Five potential heroes of Super Bowl XLIX

WATCH: Timberwolves throw shade at Kevin Love in promo

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Cousins calls out writer's old tweet

Seahawks praise Brady's trash-talk

Who should be in 2015 HOF class

Five potential Super Bowl XLIX heroes

Rex Ryan downplays Deflategate

Brady hopes Manning comes back

The worst Super Bowl commercials of all-time

SB anthem, halftime performers through the years

Super Bowl should smash TV records

Super Bowl records unlikely to fall

15 amazing Super Bowl XLIX stats

Teammate: Manziel not a joke

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.