The Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants have been two of the hottest teams in baseball in the month of July. The A's are 9-3 since being swept by the Yankees and are siting 7.5 games back of the Rangers with a lot of baseball left to be played. Since losing their July opening series at Colorado, the Giants have gone 15-3 and climbed all the way to a mere three games back of the Padres.
What does all this mean? Well, we're fast approaching the 2010 MLB Trade Deadline, which is always active around the league. The A's and the Giants find themselves in intriguing positions. Both are certainly not out of their respective races, and both are playing extremely well. And yet, it's rather difficult to forecast whether either will be a buyer or seller as Sunday July 31 approaches.
The Giants are absolutely on fire riding a strong mix of pitching and hitting. Buster Posey is leading the way on offense with a .447 batting average in July. Their strongest pitcher in July has actually been rookie Madison Bumgarner, who is 4-1 with a 1.87 era this month. Whatever the case, things are looking good for them, and with 10 more games against the Padres, the division is certainly there for the taking.
If the Giants are going to make a run, it becomes a question of whether they need help at the deadline, or if they should just hope they can stay hot. I would argue they could use another arm in the bullpen. Brian Wilson is pitching well this month, and he's being helped by the likes of Sergio Romo, Chris Ray, and Jeremy Affeldt. However, beyond that group of four, the rest of the bullpen has really struggled lately. It hasn't been a problem yet, but if Romo, Ray and Affeldt run out of gas, that could really hurt the Giants late in the game.
On offense, the offense really seems to be ok at this point. It's certainly not spectacular, but I don't really see the team adding a particularly big bat. Pat Burrell has't exactly been spectacular, and the left side of the infield is not impressing anybody, but there isn't much room for a move.
The A's are playing well lately, but they find themselves battling a couple of teams that seem intent on doing what they have to do to make the playoffs. This is seen no more than in the Rangers addition of Cliff Lee. The Rangers have been as hot as anybody and capped it off recently taking three of four from the Angels.
Of course, that makes this week so huge for the A's, and also fortuitously timed. The A's travel to Arlington to get three cracks at the Rangers. The A's have played well against mediocre opponents, but struggled against quality opponents until recently. Taking four of six from the Red Sox and White Sox could be enough to get them going the second half of the season. If they're going to become buyer's in this market, they might very well have to sweep this series against the Rangers.
I say sweep because the A's could be at a crossroads in their rebuilding process. Since getting to the ALCS in 2006, the A's have been attempting to get younger and cheaper and have been stuck in a bit of a rut. However, the young pitching has been coming together and the team suddenly finds itself in the thick of things. The question now is how close they think they are. Are they in it to win it this year, or do they want to continue to percolate with what they've got, and let the new young bats (Chris Carter and Michael Taylor) come up next year and push them over the top?
The A's biggest trade chip heading into this season was Ben Sheets. He was coming off major injury issues, but with a one-year deal, the team was looking to flip him like they did Holliday. He went on the 15-day DL with elbow issues, which would seem to put an end to possible deals. The team could try and sneak him through waivers in August and make a deal that way, but a one-year contract is not the type that makes it through waivers.
At this point, if I was running the A's, rather than make any moves, I'd stick with late season call-ups for Taylor and Carter. Seeing as they're at AAA, they would seem to be guys expected to win jobs out of spring training in 2011. If that's the case, you might as well let them get their feet wet in 2010. The team is in the playoff race, but this week could go a long way towards determining if they're buyers or sellers.