Towers gets contract extension through '12

1/23/2008 - MLB San Diego Padres

SAN DIEGO -- After 12 demanding years on the job, San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers is ready for more.

Towers received a two-year contract extension Wednesday that runs through 2010 and is thought to put him among the top five or six highest-paid GMs in baseball. The team wouldn't divulge financial details.

This offseason, Towers became the longest-tenured active GM in the big leagues. His current deal was set to end after the 2008 season.

"This is one of the best jobs in the business," he said after a news conference announcing the deal.

That's not to say it's an easy one, although four of the franchise's five NL West titles and one of its two World Series appearances have come on Towers' watch.

"It's a difficult job nowadays," Towers said. "A lot of pressure, a lot of stress involved in it. It's become almost a young man's position anymore. I think three of the best general managers in the game just left this past year: Walt Jocketty, John Schuerholz and Terry Ryan. It can wear you out.

"I feel I'm still in the prime of my career," the 46-year-old Towers added. "I'm in my mid-40s. I'm very happy to say I'm the longest-tenured guy, and that all my tenure has come with San Diego."

He was promoted from scouting director to GM in November 1995 after Randy Smith left for the Detroit Tigers.

The Padres won division titles in Towers' first season and again in 1998, when they reached the World Series before being swept by the New York Yankees. The Padres then went into a payroll-slashing mode while waiting for Petco Park to be built. They have had four straight winning seasons since moving into the downtown ballpark, including division titles in 2005 and '06 before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs both years.

San Diego missed reaching the postseason for a franchise-record third straight season when it lost a wild-card tiebreaker at Colorado in 13 innings on Oct. 1.

Towers has kept the Padres competitive despite working with a limited payroll. He's not afraid to take gambles on players, particularly those coming off injuries.

"The one thing we've always had going for us here is our locale," Towers said. "A lot of major-league players want to come to San Diego. It's a good place to raise a family, great weather, great ballpark and now a competitive ballclub. So a lot of times we might end up getting players on a one-year deal for maybe a little bit less money maybe than other ballclubs because of our locale."

Towers signed two such players in the offseason. Tadahito Iguchi agreed to a one-year deal because he wanted to remain at second base and find a comfortable place to live. Hometown product Mark Prior, coming off shoulder surgery, also signed a one-year deal.

"It is not a tough sell to get players to come here," Towers said.

Whether that will translate into a World Series title anytime soon remains to be seen.

"It's difficult, I think, if you ask any middle-market ballclub how close you are to being a world champion," Towers said. "It's a little bit easier question to ask the Yankees or Red Sox. But for the rest of us, when we have that opportunity, we can't miss. We've got to take advantage of it."

Although the Padres have been criticized for their farm system's lack of productivity, homegrown right-hander Jake Peavy was the unanimous choice for the 2007 NL Cy Young Award. He was a 15th-round pick in the June 1999 draft. Peavy was recently awarded the biggest deal in club history, a $52 million, three-year extension that will be worth $70 million if the Padres pick up his option for 2013.

Peavy anchors one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

In one of his biggest trades, Towers acquired All-Star right-hander Chris Young and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a six-player deal with Texas in January 2006.

Towers is entering his 27th season in pro ball, with all but two of those coming in the Padres' organization. A pitcher, he was San Diego's first-round draft pick in 1982 but blew out his elbow in the minor leagues.

Club CEO Sandy Alderson said Towers has lasted so long because of his "personal character and his professional expertise."

"I don't think you can be successful as a general manager over a long period of time in a relatively small universe if you don't have a good reputation among your peers," said Alderson, a former GM of the Oakland Athletics. "He's always been straightforward, fair, and I think the other general managers have appreciated him personally."