The A's find themselves in a familiar position as they ready for the second half of play: several disappointing months have them sitting well below the .500 mark and essentially out of reach of their division leaders. Oakland is positioned to deal some of its best players.
It took until the last week of July for the A's to make their move last year, and they could very well wait out the market yet again, but expect them to be big players ahead of the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline no matter the timing -- particularly, big sellers.
In return, the A's will look for parts that will help serve as the makings of a future contending club, which undoubtedly means that the second half will be marred by growing pains. On the flip side, the A's should be more inclined to promote some of their most exciting, young talent that's brewing in the Minors by season's end.
The A's likely won't hesitate to move players off of their big league roster, and they're equipped with one of the hottest commodities in Hill, who could be the best starter dealt before the Deadline. Hill is drawing interest from several teams, including his former Red Sox club. The Dodgers, Blue Jays and Orioles, among others, have also reportedly kept an eye on him.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
Barring some kind of miracle, the A's will miss out on postseason play a second consecutive year, instead using the second half to potentially put together a young core that could be at the center of future playoff runs.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Already, rookie starters Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden have shown flashes of great promise, and they could be joined by another wave of youth sooner than later. Should Valencia depart, the A's would at least have to consider bringing up third-base prospect Matt Chapman. First baseman/outfielder Matt Olson could be knocking on the door, too.
KEY PLAYER Sonny Gray will be worth monitoring following an uncharacteristically rough first half in which he allowed four earned runs or more six times in 16 starts. After finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, Gray finished the first half with only three wins, his last coming on April 22. And with Hill likely to be dealt, Gray's ability to rebound and resume his role as the anchor of this staff will become doubly important -- that is, if he, too, isn't dealt.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.