OAKLAND --The trade deadline is less than three weeks away, and history suggests the A's will try shipping some of their best veterans out of town.
Yet they have good reason to ditch that familiar script this year. At 43-43, the A's sport their best record entering the second half since they were 51-44 in 2008. They are 2 ? games behind Baltimore for the second wild card spot.
After trading away three All-Star pitchers last winter with an eye toward the future, who would have thought this team might be worth improving for the present? But the A's are positioned to at least entertain the idea of being buyers as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
"I don't think if something is within your grasp, you ignore it," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "When we made these trades, we made them with the (emphasis on) the long-term future. But if the future is now, you'd be a fool not to make that attempt."
The A's face an uphill battle to make the postseason for the first time since 2006. They currently have five teams to pass — Tampa Bay (45-41), Cleveland (44-41), Detroit (44-42), Boston (43-43) and Toronto (43-43) — to catch the Orioles, who are 45-40.
They're also nine games behind Texas in the American League West race.
There's no doubt the A's have deficiencies. Their .225 team batting average at the All-Star break was the lowest in franchise history. They rank last in the A.L. in runs (319).
But the A's also show the grit of a team that won't fold. After staggering through a nine-game losing streak at the end of May, they rebounded and are 21-13 since.
As right-hander Brandon McCarthy put it, "we have a team that is young enough and dumb enough" to stay in contention.
Indeed, several young players have emerged sooner than expected.
Jarrod Parker, 23, has a 2.86 ERA that is second among major league rookie starters with a minimum of 70 innings pitched. Reliever Ryan Cook, 25, who fought just to make the big-league club out of spring training, has developed into an All-Star closer in his first full season. Both were acquired from Arizona in the December trade that sent right-hander Trevor Cahill to Arizona.
Left-hander Tommy Milone, 25, was the least heralded of the four players who came over from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez deal. But Milone's eight victories are third among major league rookies.
As a team, the A's lead the A.L. with a 3.38 ERA.
But no one has been more important than right fielder Josh Reddick, who is providing a badly needed jolt of power as the No. 3 hitter. He's the first Athletic since Nick Swisher in 2006 to reach 20 homers before the All-Star break. This from a player who had just 10 homers in parts of three seasons with Boston before coming over in January as part of the Andrew Bailey trade.
"The production from Josh is something we thought we would see more down the line," Beane said. "I don't think anyone expected that kind of power this early."
As flawed as the A's are offensively, they have improved. After scoring just 159 runs combined in April and May — the fewest in the A.L. — they bounced back with 133 runs in June.