It pretty much goes without saying at this point that if Oakland wants to compete in the American League West this season a trade will need to be made to help boost their bipolar offense.
Despite back-to-back wins to close out the weekend series with the Seattle Mariners, the offense has remained inconsistent and at times incapable of scoring runs.
Plenty of names come up as possible trade targets to bolster the lineup: David Wright, Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman and Corey Hart are among those that could potentially be available.
Regardless of how realistic any of those particular players may be to an Oakland acquisition, it will take a package heavily built on prospects to land an impact bat for a playoff push.
It is a pretty safe assumption that just about any trade conversation is going to begin with the A's trio of young aces: Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez.
It may wind up being inevitable that the A's need to part ways with one of these prized young pitchers to land any position player they choose to target, but for now let's consider those three pitchers untouchable.
This leaves us with our core of stars of the future: Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Michael Choice, Max Stassi, Ian Krohl, Michael Ynoa, Grant Green, Adrian Cardenas and Jemile Weeks.
Chris Carter and Michael Taylor have not proven they are capable of playing at the Major League level, in fact so far they have proven quite the opposite. I'm optimistic that they will both figure it out, but for now they will not be considered the centerpieces of any momentum-shifting deals.
Michael Choice and Ian Krohl, although very highly thought of, are still playing in the low-levels of the minor leagues and Michael Ynoa is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
This leaves our trio of young middle infielders as the most attractive trade pieces in any midseason swaps. With Grant Green considered our top prospect, and eventual centerpiece of the A's infield, he likely has earned an "untouchable" label, at least for now.
This leaves us with Jemile Weeks and Adrian Cardenas.
Both players are off to a spectacular start to their 2011 season in Triple-A Sacramento. Cardenas is hitting .429 at the time of this writing, and Weeks is batting .322.
Which player should Oakland keep for their future infield, as early as 2012, and which player should they package as part of a trade to give them immediate help in the lineup?
Cardenas was originally the first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2006 amateur draft. He was acquired by Oakland as part of the Joe Blanton trade in July 2008.
Cardenas has hit for average at every stop in the minors, yet his power numbers have not developed to the level many people had hoped. Last season he struggled in the Pacific Coast League, leaving some scouts wondering if he is perhaps headed for a utility role in the majors rather than a starting position.
Cardenas has responded with a solid showing in the beginning of this season, however he has been bounced around the infield by the A's organization while playing for the Sacramento Rivercats, hurting his overall defensive statistics with three errors so far.
The flip side to the argument that his position switching has hurt his defense is that it has shown versatility that makes him valuable at more than just second base.
Weeks was the Brewers eighth-round draft pick in 2005, however he decided to enroll at the University of Miami rather than sign a professional contract and begin his minor league career. The Athletics then selected Weeks in the first round (12th overall) in the 2008 amateur draft.
Weeks is actually nine months older than Cardenas.
Weeks' quick rise through the A's minor league system is made more impressive when taking into consideration how much time he missed with injuries.
Weeks, like Cardenas, has hit for a good average at every level of the minor leagues.
Where Weeks sets himself apart though is his speed and range. He has been held back this season and the later part of 2010 on the basepaths, but speed is an important part of Weeks' game.
He is considered to be a future catalyst for the A's when he reaches the Major Leagues. He is a leadoff candidate with the speed to become a nuisance on the base paths to opposing pitchers.
His speed also gives him good range at second base; he is already considered the better defender between the two.
The only question mark with Weeks has been his injury history since being drafted; he has yet to put together a complete minor league season without missing time.
There is no doubt that Weeks is considered a future starter at second base in the major leagues though, giving Weeks more trade value than Cardenas.
Who stays and who goes in a trade?
As you've guessed by now, my belief is that if Oakland makes a trade this season, one of these two players will be included in any package headed out of the A's organization. The other player will then become the heir to Mark Ellis at second base in 2012.
I would argue that the position flip-flopping that Adrian Cardenas has been put through this season is potentially a showcasing of sorts by Billy Beane to increase trade value; his hot hitting has helped his trade value as well.
Of course, with Ellis entrenched at second base this season and Kevin Kouzmanoff struggling, perhaps the position swapping is meant for a midseason call-up to play the hot corner in Oakland if he can put together a respectable showing with his glove.
For now though, Jemile Weeks still possesses the most trade value, making him the most likely trade chip in a Billy Beane orchestrated trade.
Personally, there is little about Weeks' game that I don't like, and I have looked forward to the day when he would be leading our lineup with his hustle style of play. I see Weeks as potentially the type of player we traded away in Rajai Davis, but with a better bat.
If Beane could pull off a trade that kept Weeks in the Oakland system, perhaps packaging Cardenas with a group of other prospects, I think Oakland would be better off long term. This likely only happens though if a team with a desirable player is forced into a firesale and is willing to take a package including more mid-level prospects as opposed to a smaller package of high-level prospects.
I'd hate to see Weeks traded, but I could live with it if the trade brought in a player capable of anchoring the A's lineup and adding a consistent threat, such as a David Wright type player.
After all, we'd still have Cardenas to fill the hole at second base next season if Mark Ellis is not brought back for another season.
While Cardenas may not have the all around game that Weeks possesses, he still has a consistent bat and a high batting average, something we are lacking in Oakland at the moment.
What do you say A's fans? Would you trade Jemile Weeks or Adrian Cardenas? Who else would you package with them? And who would you want in return?