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Richard Justice

Towers, Gibson extensions a vote for D-backs' future

Deals remove possible distraction as young Arizona club enters '14 with high ceiling

Towers, Gibson extensions a vote for D-backs' future

The D-backs on Monday did what good organizations almost always do. They cast a vote for continuity.

And logic.

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And doing the right thing.

Here's betting we look back on this day nine months from now and see the decision to extend the contracts of general manager Kevin Towers and skipper Kirk Gibson through at least the 2015 season as a smart one.

No surprise there. The D-backs didn't become one of baseball's most respected organizations by doing dumb things. There was simply no reason to dismiss either man. There was also no reason to have their job security hanging over the club as a potential distraction.

"I don't think that's a very healthy way to go into the season," D-backs president Derrick Hall said. "They've earned it. They deserve it."

The National League West might be baseball's most competitive race. How competitive? There's a legitimate case to be made for all five teams winning the division. That kind of race would be great fun for fans, but it could be decided by the smallest of factors.

For instance, clubhouse chemistry. Baseball players love certainty. If Gibson hadn't been extended, every losing streak would have brought speculation about his job security.

Such things can linger in a clubhouse and tear at its fabric and cohesiveness. It's not fair to the players, and it's certainly not fair to Gibson. He has done his job well. His teams play hard and with a little bit of the edge he displayed for 17 seasons.

Gibson gets second guessed for all sorts of things, but has been in the game long enough to know that's part of the deal, too. In three full seasons, his teams have finished first, third and second. In 2013, the D-backs went 81-81 despite a bullpen that led the Majors with 29 blown saves (tied with the Astros).

Only two members of the D-backs' rotation took the ball 30-plus times, and nine NL teams had more quality starts than Arizona's 87.

Enter Towers.

He's approaching 20 years on the job as a big league general manager -- the past three at the helm of the D-backs -- and is on the shortlist of the most respected in the game. Along the way, Towers has established a reputation as being a first-rate talent evaluator and a man with an understanding that roster building is as much an art as it is a science.

Towers has had a nice offseason, too. First, he acquired outfielder Mark Trumbo, whose power bat should fit nicely into the cleanup spot behind Paul Goldschmidt. If you thought Goldschmidt should have won the 2013 NL Most Valuable Player Award -- and plenty of you do -- he has a chance to be even better with a 34-home run hitter behind him.

Arizona was fifth in the NL in runs last season, but 11th in home runs. With A.J. Pollock settled at the top of the order, Goldschmidt and Trumbo should have the opportunity to do great things.

Towers also acquired a proven closer, Addison Reed, from the White Sox. With Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz both healthy, Gibson should have all kinds of options at the end of games.

Entering the season, the D-backs will have at least three starters that are 26 years old or younger: Randall Delgado (23), Patrick Corbin (24) and Trevor Cahill (turns 26 on March 1).

If Arizona's only 30-year-old starter, Brandon McCarthy, is healthy, the D-backs could have a rotation capable of competing with any in the NL West. And the clock is ticking on 21-year-old right-hander Archie Bradley, who might be baseball's best pitching prospect and is almost certain to make his Major League debut at some point in 2014.

Nothing is guaranteed. The Dodgers will be favored to win the NL West again and could play deep into October if Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez stay healthy. Likewise, the Giants are good enough if they get productive seasons from Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum.

And one of these days, the Padres are going to stay healthy, and when that happens, they're good enough to finish first, too. The Rockies have also gotten better this offseason, and like the D-backs, they have high-level Minor League pitching prospects waiting in the wings.

The D-backs are good enough to stay in this mix. Dozens of things have to go right for a club to play October baseball, but Arizona has taken steps in the right direction these last few months.

And they took another one on Monday.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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