The San Diego Padres have fired Kevin Towers, the game's longest-tenured general manager, and will announce the move on Saturday, CBSSports.com has learned.
Towers, who was informed of the decision before Friday night's Padres-Giants game, was told by Moorad last month that the club "might begin a GM search." That was the first indication to Towers that his future with the club was in jeopardy. By Friday, that future was no more.
There is no indication yet whom Jeff Moorad, Padres chief executive officer, has in mind to replace Towers in what ranks as another jolt to a franchise that had become irrelevant during the waning months of former owner John Moores' administration and was only starting to recover.
One person with knowledge of the situation said he thinks Moorad has someone in mind and will work quickly to fill the void.
Among those who will be prominently linked to the vacancy will be Jerry DiPoto, director of player personnel for the Arizona, a person who worked closely with Moorad when Moorad was CEO in Arizona.
Others who could become candidates include Paul DePodesta, Padres special assistant for baseball operations; Jed Hoyer, Red Sox assistant GM; and Peter Woodfork, Diamondbacks' assistant general manager.
As for Towers, who has been in charge of the Padres since Nov. 17, 1995, if it is possible for a personnel move to be both surprising and not at the same time, this is it.
The decision comes as a Moorad-led ownership group gains control of the club from Moores. Major personnel moves typically are expected during a change in ownership.
Yet Towers, who is signed through 2010 and is due more than $1 million in salary next year, did some of his best work this season in quickly revamping a franchise gutted by a payroll purge into a club with good young players and a modicum of hope for the future.
A Padres' club that lost 99 games a year ago was 74-85 entering Friday's series opener with San Francisco.
Towers has overseen a dramatic player payroll ordered by Moores. The club hacked the payroll to $40 million this summer, from $73 million in 2008, and severed ties with franchise icon closer Trevor Hoffman in the process. Most recently, Towers dealt ace Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox at the July 31 trade deadline.
Following last season's crash-and-burn, Towers was given more room to work this spring and summer following club president Sandy Alderson's departure. Towers quickly made a flurry of moves that brought the Padres back to respectability far sooner than expected, acquiring such players as relievers Luke Gregerson (from St. Louis) and Edward Mujica (Cleveland), outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. (Milwaukee) and starters Sean Gallagher (Oakland) and Clayton Richard (White Sox).
With Towers essentially rebuilding the team on the fly, the Padres had gone 36-23 (.610) since July 28, a winning percentage that ranks fourth in the major leagues during that time and second in the NL.
It has been the brightest time since the Padres blew the NL West title in 2007 and lost a one-game playoff to the Colorado Rockies.
Before then, and long before the club's recent internal problems and payroll purge, Towers was the architect of the most successful period in Padres' history.
They won four of their five NL pennants under Towers, including the only back-to-back division titles in franchise history, in 2005 and 2006. They also won the 1998 NL pennant and appeared in only the club's second World Series ever with Towers in charge.
Yet Towers' long-term future under Moorad was never secure. Under Moorad in Arizona, the Diamondbacks interviewed Towers upon Joe Garagiola Jr.'s departure as GM in 2005 but hired Josh Byrnes instead.
With Towers out, Oakland's Billy Beane becomes the longest-tenured GM in the game.
And, Towers' dismissal is expected to be only the beginning of a housecleaning in the club's baseball operations department. Grady Fuson, vice-president of player development, is expected to be fired, though one source said Friday night he could remain in place until a new GM is named, at which time the GM likely would dismiss him. Bill Gayton, director of scouting, might be re-assigned as well.
Meantime, scout Chris Gwynn, who was a client of Moorad's when Moorad was an agent, is said to be well thought of and in line for a promotion -- possibly at least to the level of farm director.