Kevin Towers, whose aggressive approach to scouting, development and player acquisition defined his career as a major league general manager and produced playoff appearances for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, died Tuesday after a long battle with thyroid cancer.

He was 56.

Towers, a first-round pick of the Padres in 1982 out of Brigham Young, never made it past Class AAA as a right-handed pitcher. But once he joined the Padres for good as their scouting director in 1993, Towers launched a two-decade career as an executive that saw him thrive even as the industry shifted from traditional scouting methods to incorporate analytics.

He was named Padres general manager in 1995, a tumultuous time for Major League Baseball and the franchise. MLB was still roiled by a work stoppage that canceled the 1994 World Series and delayed the start of the 1995 season.

The Padres’ credibility was even lower, after former owner Tom Werner’s trades of Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield in 1993 demoralized the fan base amid a 101-loss season.

Under new owner John Moores, who purchased the team in 1994, Towers helped fuel a comeback. The franchise was re-made on Dec. 28, 1994, when then-GM Randy Smith pulled off a 12-player trade with the Houston Astros. Coming to San Diego: Third baseman Ken Caminiti and outfielder Steve Finley.

They went 47-70 in 1994 and 70-74 in ’95, Towers’ first year as GM. A year later, they were National League West champions, fueled by Caminiti’s MVP season and also by a classic Towers deal – swapping shortstops and catchers with the Detroit Tigers as he brought in Chris Gomez and John Flaherty, and shipped out Andujar Cedeno and Brad Ausmus.