Towers likely to be busy at Winter Meetings
D-backs GM poised to be a major Hot Stove catalyst
PHOENIX -- Last year, the D-backs made headlines at the annual Winter Meetings, completing a three-team trade with the Yankees and Tigers.
A lot has transpired since then, including changes in both the manager and general manager. But one thing remains the same, the D-backs will enter the meetings at the Swan and Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., next week looking to improve a team that finished last in the National League West.
You can figure on the D-backs being in the middle of the action next week. It's not that they have a lot of money to spend, but they have some and they also have a new GM in Kevin Towers, who is not afraid to shake things up.
Towers proved that when he visited nearby Orlando two weeks ago for the General Managers Meetings and set the Hot Stove ablaze by admitting that he was open to listening to offers for outfielder Justin Upton.
Things have been quiet on the Upton front since last week and the team figures to know one way or the other by the end of the four-day meetings whether Upton will be a D-back come Opening Day.
"There comes a point in time when we've kicked the tires, gone through the process and you finally say 'We're keeping him,'" Towers said. "We should have a real good idea by the end of the meetings."
Towers said it will likely be a quiet week leading up to the meetings, but one big piece of business the D-backs need to finish up is a contract for Zach Duke. The lefty was acquired by the D-backs last Wednesday from the Pirates for a player to be named later.
Duke is eligible for salary arbitration, but the D-backs do not want to go through that process with him and instead are trying to sign him to a one-year deal. Should they not be able to reach an agreement, they would likely non-tender him. If they do reach an agreement with him, they would be able to focus during the meetings on bolstering the bullpen and the bench.
Other than Juan Gutierrez, Sam Demel and possibly Brian Sweeney, the D-backs have a wide open bullpen.
"I'd like to think we could upgrade four spots in our 'pen," Towers said. "The bullpen and bench are our priorities."
The D-backs added veteran Geoff Blum in November, but are looking to upgrade even more -- and they'll have some money available to do it.
The D-backs' payroll will end up somewhere around $65 million, which means Towers probably has around $13 million to spend during the offseason. That's not a lot, but it's more than he was used to having when he was the GM of the Padres for 14 years, before being dismissed following the '09 season.
"I like our position," Towers said. "We don't have to move anyone because of salary, so we can look at deals that make sense for us."
Towers said he anticipates an active Winter Meetings with the date to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players having been moved up to before the meetings this year. After Friday's deadline, teams will know exactly what players will be free agents.
"It's the first time I can remember that all free agents are out there and available going into the meetings," Towers said. "You can talk to any of them this year. I think that will lead to a lot of action."
The D-backs could look to move third baseman Mark Reynolds during the meetings. They've gotten some nibbles on him so far this offseason and are open to trading him as a way of cutting down on the team's record strikeout total from last season, as well as save some money as the contract extension he signed last year begins to kick in.
Either way, Towers is not apt to be sitting on the sidelines next week.
"I like face time with other GMs," he said. "The agents will be there, there will be a lot of dialogue -- and it becomes at times a bit of a feeding frenzy."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.