A’s mull options as trade deadline looms

It’s July 16, 15 days before the July 31 trade deadline, and the Oakland A’s are only a half-game behind Baltimore for the second AL Wild Card spot.

That’s no fantasy dreamt up by rabid A’s fans either. It’s actually true. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the A’s are contending.

That makes general manager Billy Beane’s job tougher. Does he trade veterans and bring back more prospects for the future? Or does he hold on the guys like Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour and Kurt Suzuki and make a full run at the playoffs? The A’s haven’t had a record this good in over two years.

ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks the A’s could do both:

Colon and/or McCarthy could be available because the A’s have a few options to replace one or both in the rotation.

Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden have started throwing bullpen and batting practice sessions and could return sometime in August.

Another option that has snuck up on everyone is Dan Straily, a 24-year-old who has stormed through the A’s system this season. The right-hander leads the minor leagues in strikeouts with 154. He spent the first two and a half months at Double-A Midland before earning a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, where he’s been even better. In five starts with Sacramento, he has a 1.09 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 33 innings.

So if Beane decides to trade Colon or McCarthy, he has plenty of capable arms to replace them.

One interesting rumor that circulated this weekend surrounded Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton, who has underperformed this season and is wearing out his welcome in Arizona. FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the A’s are not on Upton’s no-trade clause, which allows him to block a trade to certain teams.

The A’s don’t necessarily need Upton and they may not want to give up prospects to get him, but he’s a former No. 1 overall draft pick, turns 25 in August and is signed through the 2015 season.

Beane may not pull the trigger on an Upton deal, but he has to at least explore it. Don’t forget, the A’s and Diamondbacks have made a number of big trades in recent years (Dan Haren, Trevor Cahill) so the front offices have a good working relationship.

The Chronicle’s Susan Slusser doesn’t see a fit:

Whatever happens, the next few weeks will reveal the A’s intentions for this season. The addition of the second Wild Card team has opened up a world of possibilities for the A’s, including some they probably didn’t anticipate prior to the season.