Cruz’s suspension alters West balance in A’s favor

Any moment now, the balance of power in the American League West will get more out of balance.

The Rangers are going to lose right fielder Nelson Cruz for the final 50 games of the season, accepting Major League Baseball’s imposition of a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the performance-enhancing drug machine at Biogenesis in Florida.

And while the Rangers aren’t ready to concede the West title to the Oakland A’s, they have made it clear that the Rangers aren’t going to try and shop for an external replacement for Cruz, who is the team’s home run and RBI leader.

    Instead, they will look for help from within the organization, although Rangers sources say the organization doesn’t have much hope of anyone filling the gap left by Cruz’s suspension.

“We don’t have that skill set here,’’ general manager Jon Daniels said in looking at the Texas system before Cruz’s decision was finalized.

There are suggestions the Rangers thought Cruz would fight the suspension, which would have allowed him to play out the season. But sources say MLB officials pushed hard on the Rangers to have Cruz accept the suspension, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.

The Rangers are a much-diminished team without the American League’s fourth-leading home run hitter (27) and fifth-best RBI producer (78).

The A’s, on the other hand, figure to get better with the return later this month of left-handed starting pitcher Brett Anderson. And with Triple-A starter Sonny Gray likely to get a promotion this month (as a reliever), the bullpen should be better.

Even so, pitching is the A’s strength. Where Oakland needs help is offensively, and the A’s do have some upside.

Josh Reddick (.208, five homers), Brandon Moss (.244, 17 homers), Coco Crisp (.251, 10 homers), Yoenis Cespedes (.230, 17 homers), Derek Norris (.214, seven homers), Chris Young (.194, nine homers) and Seth Smith (.248, six homers) all have underachieved to this date.

The A’s do have outfielders Michael Choice (.299 with 14 homers) and Michael Taylor (.294 with 16 homers) having nice seasons at Triple-A Sacramento. Taylor has never hit much in the big leagues, and while Choice has never been promoted, it’s because the A’s have high hopes for him and they don’t want to promote him until they think he’s ready to be a regular.

Could he replace anyone in Oakland right now?

You wouldn’t think so, but continued lack of productivity may force the A’s to make an early move.

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.