The trade deadline is approaching and this is the time of year that the Oakland A's have been the most interesting they have ever been in recent years because fans were watching and waiting to see their young, up-and-coming stars get traded for prospects.
This season has a different vibe though. With the A's over .500 and playing their best baseball since 2006, general manager Billy Beane should once again be busy this time of year, but not for the reasons he has been busy at the deadline in recent years.
Usually by the All-Star break, the A's are no longer in playoff contention and the most interesting baseball from the organization is up the road at Triple-A Sacramento where the prospects are developing.
This year is different because some of the prospects are MLB-ready. Infielders Jemile Weeks and Chris Carter are just two examples of the Sacramento Rivercats bringing success with them to the Oakland A's. Although Weeks is in a slump, he is always dangerous with his speed and the same can be said for Chris Carter and his power.
The A's have also brought in prospects from other teams, like Josh Reddick from Boston, or other countries, like Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, to beef up the team.
Following a sweep of the Minnesota Twins, the A's have won nine of their last 10 but the schedule will be difficult in the weeks before the July 31st trade deadline with opponents like the Yankees and Rangers coming up.
Whether or not the A's have success against these division leaders, the A's will still have a great shot at the playoffs thanks to a second wild-card spot.
On that note, Billy Beane must use the trade deadline to build up rather than rebuild as he has in recent years. Beane has some expendable players and some positions of need that he should be considering.
Although Kurt Suzuki has been a great member of the team, he is not hitting the ball well and rookie Derek Norris has taken most of Suzuki's playing time. Considering Suzuki's contract, I would be seeking trades for him if I were Billy Beane.
Also with the young arms in the A's rotation in Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Travis Blackley and with veterans Dallas Braden and Brendon McCarthy, I would say that the A's could trade Brett Anderson who also is highly paid by the A's standards.
Rumor has it that ownership is willing to expand the payroll, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. So with that additional payroll plus savings from trading Suzuki and Anderson, the A's could shoot for a better third baseman or shortstop.
As much fun as it was to say "Inge-sanity" when Brandon Inge showed off his clutch hitting earlier this year, he has a low batting average and his best days are behind him. Cliff Pennington was also never that good of a hitter and now we see rookie Brandon Hicks eating away at his playing time.
A stronger left side of the infield could get the A's into that second wild-card spot and back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, where they were swept by the Tigers in the ALCS.
Is it too much to ask for better results than that this year?