Note that this is not a "Nico says the A's should sell" moment in time, but rather a look at the possible inevitability of a decision to get returns on the assets set to expire at season's end.
That being said, I am a pretty good barometer for how much the A's are in the race. If we lose, or things go badly, and I throw the radio at the TV, scaring the dog and causing the neighbors who have children to bolt their doors shut, Oakland is probably in the thick of things. On the other hand, if the A's lose and my reaction is to go, "Huh, same score as yesterday," then chances are Oakland is kind of buried in the standings.
The A's have, on their roster, at least one player who is already being coveted by the "buyers," and that is Ben Zobrist. I would not be particularly opposed to the A's trading Zobrist, even soon, if the return looked like a big league ready COFer the A's liked and a young starting pitcher the A's liked. Same if the A's could wrangle, from the bidding war, a big league ready shortstop they liked and perhaps a young pitcher.
Question is, will Zobrist's value get higher or lower as we approach the trading deadline, which is currently 7 weeks away? (Note that you can always bring Scott Kazmir and/or Tyler Clippard into the same conversation, but for now I'll focus more on Zobrist since he is getting the most attention from other teams.)
If you trade for Zobrist right now, you get his services for nearly 4 months and that has to be some incentive for teams wading through the mediocrity that is most of the divisions right now -- and unless you feel the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins are really the bees knees, you have to think most all the divisions right now are very much up for grabs.
However, as the trade deadline looms the bidding war will inherently heat up. As July 31st approaches, each trade will leave one more team improved and another key player off the market. Generally, "sellers" make out like bandits the last week of July while the "buyers" are the ones selling their souls to the devil for a shot at the dance.
It's unfortunate that Sean Nolin has had multiple setbacks to his health, because in a perfect world the A's might be able to deal Kazmir and not lose a beat if Nolin could step in and reproduce enough of Kazmir's value. That, however, will not happen. The trouble with dealing Zobrist is that the A's two weakest positions may be 2B and LF. Though I do expect the Joey Wendle era to begin before too long.
So my questions here are: If the A's decided to trade Zobrist (or Kazmir or Clippard), do you think they could get a better return around now or around July 31st? And what would you want to see coming back in order to make it worth pulling the trigger? Is there even a deal out there that might make the A's better poised to contend in 2016-17, but which might also give them a chance at still taking their best shot at a playoff spot, even without Zobrist, this season?