OAKLAND -- The addition of a second Wild Card berth gives fresh life to the A's, who are stuck in a small sand box with the MLB bullies from Texas and Anaheim.
But on the other side of the 2012 All-Star break, the A's are just 12 game out of the Wild Card play-in game, and playing great baseball. They're 9-1 over their last 10 games, but their hottest stretch of baseball since September of 2009 takes them into series against the two top teams in baseball.
Two games vs. the 54-35 Rangers followed by four against the 55-34 Yankees. Whether the A's will admit it or not, it's a big homestand.
And whether or not the A's, as they are currently constructed, can compete with the A.L.'s top teams in the coming weeks will determine if Billy Beane is making -- or fielding -- phone calls as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
Not the type of club to rent a player for a playoff push, any move made would likely have to benefit the team in future years.
The A's have a surplus of pitching and enough outfielders. They've shored up first base with Chris Carter and Brandon Moss, and the addition of Derek Norris has added pop as well.
But the left side of the infield is one area the A's could improve.
With Edwin Encarnacion signing a three-year extension with Toronto and the Brewers saying they don't have intentions to trade Aramis Ramirez, the market for third basemen is shallow.
The Padres' Chase Headley is expected to be the most attractive option at the hot corner. Reports indicate San Diego has already fielded calls from six teams about their 28-year-old third baseman, including requests from the division rival Mariners and Angels.
Headley has 10 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .266 average in 90 games this year.
He won't hit free agency until 2014, giving him at least two seasons with his new team should he be traded.
As a 10-5 player, Rollins has full no-trade protection, but it would be interesting to see if the Oakland native would entertain a trade to the A's.
The 13-year Philly veteran is batting .262 this season with nine home runs and 14 stolen bases. Though he is getting up in age, the 33-year-old would still be a marked upgrade over Cliff Pennington, who owns an unimpressive .203.266.290 line this year.
The fourth most expensive MLB shortstop would come at a price as he signed a three-year, 33 million contract before the season.
Shortstop Stephen Drew is only recently returned from the gruesome ankle injury that cost him 11 months.
Drew, 29, is batting .233 with three RBIs in the 13 games he's played since his return.
He's in the second season of a two-year, 13.75 million contract that has a mutual option for 2013 that would pay him 10 million if exercised and 1.35 million if it's bought out.
Yunel Escobar, 29, is batting .249 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. He is in the first of a two-year, 10 million contract with Toronto, who is reportedly not opposed to letting him go with prospect Adeiny Hechavarria waiting for his chance.
Escobar's contract has club options for 2014 and 2015 at 5 million.
Former Athletic Marco Scutaro is having a solid season for the Rockies, and would be a solid and flexible addition to the left side. He can play short and third, in addition to second base, and he's familiar with how things work in Oakland.
Scutaro is hitting .273 this year, with 42 runs and 25 RBIs. He is in the final season of a three-year 17.5 million contract.
If the A's fare poorly against the Rangers and A's, and Billy Beane decides to keep lining his ducks for future seasons, there are a few expendable Athletics who would be of value to competing clubs. But don't expect the squad to let any of its cornerstones get away.
Coco Crisp's combination of speed and pop, and his knack for making things happen atop the lineup are rare in the bigs.
Crisp has missed time this year earlier with an inner ear infection and stomach virus, and he is currently day-to-day with a strained shoulder.
The 11-year veteran might not garner as much in return as he once would have; he's having one of his worst seasons at the plate so far. Crisp
The departure of Crisp, who is in the first year of a two-year, 14 million contract, would open things up in the A's outfield, and among other things, give manager Bob Melvin the chance to play Chris Carter and Brandon Moss together in the lineup.
Bartolo Colon signed a one-year, 2 million contract with the A's, and he's been well worth it, going 6-7 with a 3.80 ERA this year.
His season features two eight-inning shutout bids against A.L. West rivals -- the Rangers and Angels.
His heavy diet of dancing fastballs would be a solid addition to any playoff-bound staff.
With the emergence of Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki is suddenly -- though the team won't admit it -- dispensable.
Suzuki's offensive numbers have dropped off this year, but he is known league-wide for his adept ability to handle a staff, especially a young one.
The 28-year-old catcher is in the second of a four-year contract worth 16.25 million.
Relief pitchers are always in demand come the trade deadline, and veteran Grant Balfour, who has filled multiple roles in the 'pen for the A's, is no different.
He is in the second year of a two-year, 8.1 million contract with the A's.
A 10-5 player is one who has 10 years of MLB service, the last five of which came with the same team. In 1970, players of such status were granted the right to veto any trade that involves them.