"#11, your walk-off is ready. #11."
As the trade deadline approaches, there are clear areas where the A's could stand to improve. Shortstop is one, 3B and C potentially others. At the same time, often the best move is no move as any deal means mortgaging a bit of the future in order to improve the present, might mean acquiring a player who doesn't perform especially well, could result in disrupting the chemistry of a team that seems to know it is just fine as is.
But is it? You're never as good as it seems you are when you're going good, and you're never as bad as it seems you are when you're going bad. If the A's make a move, they risk compromising the rebuild just as they did in 2009 when they acquired Matt Holliday only to overestimate their team and underestimate the Angels. If the A's don't make a move, they risk regretting it when the A's cool off and now it's too late to get better.
Certainly some of the decision will be made by what opportunities do and don't present themselves. The way they're going with the current motley crew, the A's don't have to make a trade, so if the right deal isn't there the A's can walk away. And if a deal is on the table that allows the A's to get better without stripping the core of the rebuild, you make the trade because you'd make it no matter what your record was.
Most likely, though, Beane will find himself faced with difficult choices. Someone like Chase Headley, Justin Upton, perhaps someone whose last name is Escobar, will be available for a steep price -- but will be a player who not only fills a need but does so right through 2014-15 so that they complement the rebuild rather than becoming "rentals". And that price will include the very prospects you are hoping the A's won't let get away.
If you're another GM and you're willing to part with a Headley, an Upton, an (insert actual solution here), who are you going to insist be included? It's going to be players like Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, Dan Straily, Miles Head, Michael Choice -- it's not going to be Shane Peterson and it's not going to be Graham Godfrey.
Thing is, it's going to be a dog fight down the stretch, and the A's are not always going to be charmed. In baseball, you can get swept by the Twins and then sweep the Yankees. You can be unable to buy a run for two weeks, and then be able to summon one seemingly on command for a month. There's a long way to go in this season and the A's 7-8-9 is not good, 1B will not always be magical, and the A's -- against all odds -- suddenly have a real shot at something special now. Not soon, now.
Can the "status quo" get it done for another 2.5 months? Is it worth it to bolster the talent of this crew at the expense of trading away someone who has a chance to be special? I don't envy Beane having to make this call over the next 9 days. Even though I know he downright loves it.