West Notes: GMs, Tanaka, A’s DH, Cruz

The annual "Black Monday" NFL head coach firing day does not have an analog for baseball GMs, who have enjoyed much better job security than either those coaches or MLB managers, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Since 2011, only Larry Beinfest (the Marlins' former president of baseball operations) has been canned amongst top baseball operations men. Ten GMs have been in place since at least 2006, while only nine of the remaining twenty teams have undergone what Piecoro classifies as "full regime changes." Though several elements — such as baseball's long player development timeline — may support this phenomenon, Piecoro says that we could see more front office shakeups in the near future. He lists several GMs who could be on a short leash, many of whom represent western division clubs: Kevin Towers of the Diamondbacks, Dan O'Dowd of the Rockies, Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners, Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, and Jerry Dipoto of the Angels.

Here's more from the National and American League West:

  • D-Backs fans should temper their expectations about the possibility of the club landing Masahiro Tanaka, writes MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. Though Arizona has been prominently connected to the hurler, Gilbert says that the commitment needed to beat the market on Tanaka would be "very tough" to cram into the club's payroll space.
  • The Athletics are likely to employ John Jaso as the club's primary designated hitter rather than adding salary to put a new bat in the lineup, says Jane Lee of MLB.com. Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp could also see time in the DH slot to reduce their wear and tear in the outfield, Lee notes. Meanwhile, Lee notes, the club is highly unlikely to trade away Cespedes (unless it gets a huge offer) and does not seem to be in play for free agent Nelson Cruz.
  • The Astros made a surprising addition to the club's 40-man roster recently, protecting unheralded 23-year-old Luis Cruz from the Rule 5 draft. As Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle writes for Baseball America (subscription required), Cruz exploded last year and caught the attention of GM Jeff Luhnow. "We promoted him to Double-A not really expecting him to do what he did," said Luhnow. "He went out and dominated." Though Cruz threw only 17 innings at that level, he also notched 10.2 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 across 113 1/3 innings  in High-A (though his 5.16 ERA was less promising). "The fact is that he is lefthanded, he profiles as a starting pitcher and has dominant stuff," Luhnow explained.
  • The American League West race gets its own spot on ESPN.com's Buster Olney's top storylines of 2014 (Insider link). The division features big money additions to the Rangers and Mariners, as well as numerous interesting newcomers to the rosters of the A's, Angels, and Astros. As Olney explains, the results of the division's arm race — and the fallout for those teams that fail to meet expectations — promises to be great baseball theater.


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