GM 101 or How Not to Make a Trade

San Diego's General Manager Kevin Towers has his team mentally fit to take on the Cardinals.

There is an interesting debate going on at our fine Message Board over whether or not Walt Jocketty is one of the Top Five general managers in Major League Baseball. While I happen to agree with those who say "yes", I am not here to engage in that subject. Here is the link if you do, however: Message Board

Instead, I want to point out why San Diego's Kevin Towers' name has not surfaced in that discussion and why it should not.

You see, on his Padres' roster, Towers has this very good, but not great player, Phil Nevin. Nevin is a versatile guy who has played third and the outfield and even caught earlier in his career, but is currently housed at first base.

When he is healthy, Nevin can produce, having knocked in 100 runs three times, including 105 just last season. Towers signed Nevin to a four year, $34 million contract before the 2003 season. That contract initially included a full no-trade clause, but for 2005 reverted to a limited trade clause, allowing the Pads to trade Nevin to 21 teams without his permission.

But, in recent times, Towers and the Padres have soured on Nevin. Apparently, Towers is not one to back down to a challenge or he just has it out for himself, his team and Nevin or perhaps all of the above. You see, apparently Towers has been focusing his very public efforts on moving Nevin to teams that the player specifically doesn't want and doesn't have to join.

Before last season, Towers tried to exchange Nevin for another injury-prone player, Ken Griffey, Jr. Oops, at that point Nevin had a full no-trade clause. Nevin couldn't be convinced (bribed?) to head to the Queen City, instead remaining a Padre.

Fast forward to 2005. Now, Towers trades Nevin to Baltimore for starting pitcher Sidney Ponson. Darn, one of those pesky eight teams to whom Nevin can say "no". And, not surprisingly, he does. After all, San Diego is a great place to live and all.

Be thankful the Cardinals have Jocketty. He would never drag his players and other teams' players through the public mud that Towers has done twice now.

Some are critical of Jocketty's almost obsessive secrecy in player personnel matters, but consider the alternatives. This case illustrates a classic point on how not to do it.

Towers can't even rely on the standard GM smokescreens here. After all, it is kinda' hard to characterize this as an unfounded trade rumor when it has been in the headlines for the better part of a week.

Much has been said and written about that elusive element of "team chemistry". Well, Towers is proving it can both be made and undone. And, again, he did it to two teams in the process!

Through the press, Towers tries to save face by telling Nevin that he won't play unless he produces on the field. What a motivator of men!

How would you like to be Nevin, having had it been reinforced to God and country that you are not wanted on the team of your preference? How would you like to be Ponson or any member of the Baltimore Orioles team or management, who the Padres coaxed up to the very public trade altar before Nevin gave them the thumbs-down to the arranged marriage?

The good news is that Towers only has to trade Nevin to six or seven more teams until he finds one where he knows the deal will actually go through.

I don't care how positive guys like Woody Williams are in the clubhouse. This is a bad situation made worse. Methinks this is a great time for the Cardinals to be playing the Padres.

Thanks, Kevin!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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