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Buyers or sellers? Next two weeks key for A's

MINNEAPOLIS -- A nine-game losing streak at the end of May was reason enough for baseball pundits to label the A's as Trade Deadline sellers, despite plenty of baseball left to play at the time.

But there's still time before the July 31 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, and Oakland has since made a case to be buyers, winning 21 of its final 34 contests before the All-Star break to land at the .500 mark, just 2 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card slot.

It would seem, then, that the two-plus weeks of play that begins Friday against the Twins could determine Oakland's hand at the deadline.

"The second Wild Card spot definitely changes the way teams think," assistant general manager David Forst said. "I mean, having a shot at a playoff spot is not something that you take lightly and certainly is not something that comes around every year. For teams that see that extra spot being a realistic opportunity, that's going to be a big factor in thinking pertaining to the deadline."

Oakland's offense, which ranks last in the American League in batting average, did not showcase the consistency of a contender in the first half. The pitching, per usual, did, but both will have to display that trait through the deadline if the A's want to avoid dealing away a name like Bartolo Colon.

Oakland is expected to listen to offers on the veteran righty, as well as Brandon McCarthy, who figures to garner interest should he increase his value by staying healthy in the next couple of weeks.

Neither will be dealt away easily, though, especially since the A's have no reason -- at the moment -- to dump payroll, and have long valued depth in an oft-injured pitching staff.

"I think we've seen enough over the years to make us think we can never have enough starting pitching," Forst said. "Anything could happen to one, two, three or more guys in the starting rotation, so I think we understand how valuable starting pitching depth is. We're going to take that into account in the next few weeks."

Reliever Grant Balfour isn't immune to a trade, either, but the righty reliever -- making $3.75 million this season and due to make $4 million next year -- will come at a high price, like his other pitching teammates.

Off the mound, outfielders Seth Smith and Coco Crisp figure to garner a hefty amount of interest. The former isn't likely going anywhere, but Crisp could find himself wearing another uniform by month's end, particularly after increasing his value with a solid offensive showing before the break. Should the A's move Crisp, who signed a $14 million deal last winter, they could transfer Yoenis Cespedes back to center field and keep Smith in left.

The biggest decision facing the A's front office in the coming weeks is behind the plate, where Kurt Suzuki has lost his starting job. The former regular is definitely a trade candidate, with Derek Norris settling nicely into the lineup at catcher.

No move is necessary, though, and it would seem the small-market A's also don't have the budget to bring in impact reinforcements to bolster a second-half run at the playoffs. In the end, they could stand pat, despite glaring needs.

"We can always get more consistent offensively," Forst said. "We still have days and nights where we struggle to score runs. The pitching has been consistent from day one, and I'd love to see an offense that has consistent at-bats, and we've made a lot of strides in that direction, so I expect it to continue.

"We go out and find players and trade players, we certainly always have a reason to make each of those moves. This team has played great. They've bounced back very well from that nine-game losing streak, and the credit there goes to the guys on the field. They really turned things around, particularly on the offensive side. We'll see where things go in the second half."

Oakland Athletics, Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon, Coco Crisp, Brandon McCarthy, Seth Smith, Kurt Suzuki