Oakland general manager Billy Beane was center stage leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline last season.
He could be the man in the middle of activity again this year -- only from a different angle.
A year ago, Beane was making the impact moves with the anticipation of claiming a World Series championship, which has eluded the A's since 1989. The team bolstered its rotation with a July 5 trade that brought starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs. On July 31, the A's acquired outfielder Sam Fuld from the Twins for pitcher Tommy Milone, and then -- after the Tigers landed David Price -- sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes.
After seeing the A's eliminated in the American League Wild Card game by the eventual AL champion Royals last October, and an offseason major revision of the Oakland roster in which Fuld is the only holdover from last July's additions, Beane is more likely to have a long-term look this time around.
Oakland is among the teams to watch leading up to this year's Deadline.
• The A's have a chance to replenish the farm system if they decide to move their potential free agents, which include left-handed starter Scott Kazmir, reliever Tyler Clippard and the versatile Ben Zobrist. The A's went into Thursday with the lowest winning percentage in the AL, and in last-place in the AL West. It's the first time the A's have been in last place after June 30 since they finished fourth in what was a four-team AL West in 1998.
• Houston, which lost a combined 416 games the last four years, has found its rebuilding plan sped up by the youth movement having an instant impact. The Astros went into Thursday in first place in the AL West, five games ahead of the second-place Angels. However, the club can make a major statement if it will part with some of the talent in the farm system to add a proven starting pitcher for the stretch run. Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have combined for 226 innings, 46 percent of the rotation's workload. Rookie Lance McCullers' arrival has provided a strong third to the rotation, but veteran experience would be invaluable.
• Philadelphia is undergoing a change in its management personnel, and is ready to undertake a massive housecleaning of veteran players in search of young players who can be part of a rebuilding. A willingness to move Cole Hamels, who is under control for four more seasons, will command attention from a team with serious postseason ambitions and the ability to absorb the $87.5 million Hamels could make if that 2019 option is exercised. Closer Jonathan Papelbon could fit nicely with a contender, and his option for 2016 -- which vests with 55 games finished -- is $13 million.
• The Blue Jays have reached a point of now or never. They are in the midst of things in an AL East where only one game separates every team other than Boston. Contracts are set to expire for starting pitchers Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey, although Toronto does have an option for 2016 for Dickey, as well as Jose Bautista. The club needs a closer -- Papelbon's name has been mentioned.
• The Mets are in an enviable position as they face a postseason opportunity. While they need a legitimate bat or two, they have a surplus in quality starting pitching, which could open the door for an impact bat without disrupting the nucleus of the team -- and without having to bundle too many of their prospects to fill the void.
• Miami had its hopes dashed with the extended loss of Giancarlo Stanton with a broken hamate bone. The Marlins do, however, have a nucleus that gives them hope for the next couple of years, and they could become a seller by moving potential free agents, including starting pitchers Dan Haren and Mat Latos, and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.
• The Brewers hinted at a rebuilding plan in the winter when they dealt rotation anchor Yovani Gallardo to Texas. After a first half that has led to a shuffling of the management structure, the club could look for an influx of youth by dealing potential free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, right-hander Kyle Lohse, right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton and left-handed reliever Neal Cotts.
• Cincinnati expected to be a factor in the National League Central this year, but it hasn't worked out. If the Reds want to make an impact, closer Aroldis Chapman could demand a high price. The roster also includes potential free-agent starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, and left-handed relievers Sean Marshall and Manny Parra.
• Colorado will draw headlines with speculation about a possible trade of Troy Tulowitzki, although the shortstop has made it clear he wants to be with the Rockies. Tulowitzki has six years and $109 million remaining on his contract, if the $15 million option for 2021 is exercised instead of giving him a $4 million buyout.
• San Diego was center stage with an offseason unloading of prospects in exchange for veteran bats. But a subpar first half has led to the dismissal of manager Bud Black, and the Padres could look to start rebuilding the farm system by moving of potential free-agent outfielders Justin Upton and Will Venable, and right-handed starter Ian Kennedy.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.