Winter Meetings interview with Kevin Towers, Rick Hahn & Jerry Dipoto
THE MODERATOR: Kevin Towers of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Jerry Dipoto, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Rick Hahn of the Chicago White Sox, who just pulled off a nice three-way trade.
We'll let each gentleman make an opening statement, and open to questions.
KEVIN TOWERS: I want to speak for all of us here, I think we're all pretty excited about what transpired in the last half hour. We all addressed some of our biggest needs with us acquiring a power bat with Paul Goldschmidt, we'll give him some protection. Mark Trumbo coming from the Angels, and with Rick we'll get an opportunity to get a great leadoff guy in Adam that will be going to Chicago.
But for us, we came here to these meetings looking for pitching and looking for power. We tried to add offense, and we've got a guy that we can control now for three years. Two of the probably better right-handed power bats in the National League, and excited for spring training. Excited to see how it all works. Had to give up a lot to get it, but I think we're all pretty happy with how things worked out.
JERRY DIPOTO: I agree with that. For us we came in with a shopping list and looking for young, controllable starting pitching, guys that can make an impact in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Feel like after Santiago's and Tyler Skaggs, we were able to address those needs. It doesn't come without its element of pain. Loosing Mark Trumbo is not an easy thing for us to do. We love him as a player and a person and we'll miss him. But for us to sink our teeth into a 26-year-old and 22-year-old lefty, to move forward with, we feel like we have a very good move for our organization, and we're looking forward to seeing it get out there.
RICK HAHN: It's nice when you're able to have three clubs up here all feeling good about things. Obviously as Jerry pointed out, it does hurt a little bit, but it costs something to get something. Giving up Hector Santiago, a strong, young left-handed starting pitcher who was tremendous in our clubhouse and a great individual, he's going to be missed.
But those who have followed our club closely, you know we had a number of positional player needs. We had a problem getting on base last year. We lacked a little bit of energy and a little edge. We weren't a real balanced lineup. And adding a guy like Adam Eaton at the top of the order, who is going to bring that energy, hit left-handed, play solid defense and get on base for us for the next five years is an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
Q. (No microphone)?
KEVIN TOWERS: We have several people that our organization saw even in high school. We have similar scouts saw who him in the outfield. Transitioning to the outfield in our place will be difficult and tough.
I would say that the playing time at first base will be somewhat limited. Goldie is the type of guy that likes to be out there probably 155 games plus. But he's a good athlete.
As we saw with Goldschmidt, he was a guy that was a below average defender that turned himself into an above average defender, and everything we've gotten from Jerry and our scouts and people that know this kid well, the work ethic will be there and at least a solid, average defender in left field with a plus arm will be a huge offensive contributor.
Q. Jerry, you know Tyler Skaggs about as well as anybody. What appealed to you about his upside and what do you think it's going to take to finally get him on track in the big leagues?
JERRY DIPOTO: Well, the same thing that appealed to the last guy we were able to acquire, you know? Tyler has just turned 22 years old. He's an athletic left-hander with a three-pitch mix. He's performed his way through the minor leagues and about as clean a development as you'd like to see. Like a lot of guys who have had their Major League debuts at 20 years old, and I think he's had 13 starts as a 20 and 21-year-old, he's just learning to cut his teeth at this level.
But as it pertains to this level as he's performed throughout his professional career, I feel like the next step is imminent for him. Hopefully this year is the start of that. It's an opportunity with us, and we look forward to having him.
Q. For Rick Hahn, with Eaton, obviously he had the injury early last year. What did you see from him in the second half when you came back that kind of let you feel good about him going forward after kind of a setback here?
RICK HAHN: The elbow injury wasn't something we felt and our medical people felt would be a long-term issue. We were able to see the same player who knew the strike zone and was able to work the count, had a short, compact, line drive stroke, ran well, obviously not affected by the elbow injury and still had the plus arm.
So we certainly paid attention to what he looked like coming back from that injury, but it was the kind of thing that shouldn't be a lingering issue. We didn't feel it was the same as last year.
Q. Rick, team speed and on base percentages for last year, did you feel you accomplished two things with one move here?
RICK HAHN: That and balancing out the lineup too was another issue for us here that motivated us to get this done as well as the character of the individual. This is a dirt bag baseball player. This is a guy who has been described to me by someone at this table with words I can't use. But looking to give us an edge that we were lacking a little bit in recent months. He's a real nice kid for us. He's one of the names at the top of our target list. He's probably been a pain in J.T.'s side since he started the off-season, and bugging him about Adam Eaton, which you can attest to. And we were able to work something out three ways to make everybody happy.
Q. Jerry, do you think both these guys will benefit from moving into a more pitcher friendly ballpark?
JERRY DIPOTO: Yeah, I don't know too many pitchers that wouldn't prefer to pitch in a pitcher friendly place. So the answer to the question simply would be yes. I don't know in this particular case if that is the primary reason why I would acquire him. We believe in both pitchers, their stuff, their upside. Obviously Santiago has had success at the Major League level, and we believe he'll transition just fine into our park, and it gives Ty a place to pitch that he's a little familiar with and fits his style. Again, we have the opportunity to get the reps out there, which is an important thing.
Q. Rick, I guess (indiscernible) said he prefers to play in the corner outfield. You've got a bit of a crowded house, do you have any thoughts about what's going to happen there in the corner outfield and what's going to go on?
RICK HAHN: We do view Adam as the centerfielder for the next several years is the plan right now. With De Aza and Viciedo, we have the option of obviously keeping them both and letting Robins play match-ups based upon on the opposing pitcher or choices he wants to make on any given day or we'll likely continue to receive calls on both those players that we've had over the last several weeks.
At the end, if we break camp or have all four of those or all three of those players on our roster from opening day, there are ways to make it work.
Q. How did this come together? Did it start with two of you talking to each other and one of you brought the third in that started the GM meetings and it continued? When did it all start to get rolling?
KEVIN TOWERS: Actually, Rick and I have been discussing Eaton for some time, probably over the last month. He just needed to know if he had a direct fit at the time. We would have talked about Mr. Sale. I imagine we might have been doing something directly. But I still can't get him to budge there.
Actually two days ago we met with Jerry. You know, to me a lot about making trades is relationships. And somebody who worked alongside me a couple years ago who knows our system very well, and specifically Tyler, knew they were looking for young pitching and controllable pitching. We had a good, brief meeting and sent him a text. Said, can I get your attention in that Trumbo deal for Skaggs and Eaton? Sure. Why don't you come down and talk? So that's where it all kind of began. I think he had more of a need for pitching and brought up Santiago's name to me. I said I think there might be a nice little three-way here because I know that Mr. Hahn and the White Sox really would like to have Eaton. They like their left-handed pitcher like our left-handed pitcher. We like your right-handed power hitter, and it basically came together rather quickly. Probably within the last 24 hours.
Q. Jerry, do you see both Skaggs and Santiago starting the year in the rotation or one of those guys in the bullpen or the minors?
JERRY DIPOTO: Right now they're both on the map for us as starting pitchers. There is a lot of time that has to transpire between now and opening day.
One of the things we like most about Hector is his versatility. He's been successful in the big leagues as a starter and middle reliever. Right now we'd line up with both guys as starters in our equation, but there is still a lot that has to happen between now and opening day.
Q. Would it worry you to have three lefties in the rotation?
JERRY DIPOTO: Would it?
Q. Would it worry you to have three lefties in the rotation?
JERRY DIPOTO: Oh, no, maybe the most successful pitching staff the Angels ever had were with three lefties. So bring it on. We're left-handers particularly in our division. But throughout baseball, the more lefties you have, the better off you are.
Q. Kevin, how does this trade affect your search for a starter now? Are you more likely to do that through free agency at this point or are you still maybe trading off?
KEVIN TOWERS: We're still looking to add the front end of the rotation starter if we can. Probably going to be a little more difficult as we move two of our bigger trade pieces to acquire Trumbo. But we still feel like we've got young players that people covet that may have pitching to be moved in a trade.
So we're going to spend the next 48 hours continuing to meet with agents, some free agent pitching out there as well as a couple of clubs talking about acquiring pitching. So in the perfect world, probably the free agent route makes more sense just because you don't want to empty the cupboard on a farm system that we think is strong. But if it's the right player, we'll consider trading once again.
Q. Jerry, what kind of void is left now with Trumbo leaving? And how do you plan to replace him? Are you confident you can do it in house or would you maybe go out to free agency to look for another bat now?
JERRY DIPOTO: We'll be open minded to whatever way we can replace the offense. Obviously losing a player like Mark and the impact that he makes offensively is difficult. But we feel like the combination of a full season of what we believe to be an adjusted Josh Hamilton, a healthy Albert Pujols, and a full season of contribution from David Freese makes our lineup potent. We stay healthy, we stay out there and put some runs on the board. Obviously, we have to replace something that Mark brought to the table. We don't have any delusions that we'll be able to go out there and find a 30 or 100 guy on the market, so to speak. But we'll be open minded to how we can add another offensive piece and we're certainly open and we'll look at film.
Q. As for KT, I know in the past you've inherited a team with a lot of strikeouts and really tried hard to eliminate the strikeouts from the roster. Now you've added an eight guy who has a lot of power but strikeouts too. Is that a tradeoff that you're willing to make to get a guy with Trumbo's power because they're so hard to find?
KEVIN TOWERS: I think initially when I first took over we had several guys who allowed strikeouts. We had four or five that were 150 or more. So with power is going to come strikeouts, and we certainly realize that. I think we've still got on-base guys. We've got with Pollack still, I think we've got a nice speed dynamic at the top of our lineup.
Just looking at the West, and looking at the National League and looking at the free agent market going forward, I just don't know where you're going to find power going down the road. If 180 strikeouts translates into 40 homers and 150 or 120 RBIs, and Goldie has another Goldschmidt type year, we'll be happy with those two big right-hand bats in the lineup. With power is going to come strikeouts. Just didn't want to have an entire lineup for two-thirds of our lineup that was all lots of strikeouts, and I think we don't have that. We have some now.
Q. Does this make your outfield running into spring training, Trumbo, Pollack, (indiscernible)? Can you use Trumbo at third base at all to fill in if you want to move Prado around?
KEVIN TOWERS: We'd really like to keep Prado at third. We think that's where he's most comfortable. Our outfield, I would say Pollack will be at centerfield with Parra in right, Trumbo in left, and Cody Ross. I hope to get Cody back in April or maybe May.
But I don't see us using Trumbo, maybe to spell Goldie for a day or two at first base. Not that he's going to want to take many days off with interleague play. I would image Trumbo would be a nice fit at DH for us.