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5 teams on the 'buy or sell' bubble

MLB.com @jonmorosi

The distinction between non-waiver Trade Deadline buyers and sellers rarely has been sharper than it is this year.

Before the Mariners lost four straight to conclude the first half, the American League was on pace to have four teams finish with winning percentages of .600 or better for only the second time in the Modern Era (1977 was the other year, per STATS).

The distinction between non-waiver Trade Deadline buyers and sellers rarely has been sharper than it is this year.

Before the Mariners lost four straight to conclude the first half, the American League was on pace to have four teams finish with winning percentages of .600 or better for only the second time in the Modern Era (1977 was the other year, per STATS).

Meanwhile, the last-place Orioles have entertained trade offers on four-time All-Star Manny Machado for what seems like an eternity.

Still, indecision lingers for several teams in the middle. Here's a look at five front offices facing difficult choices as the sport gears up for the second half.

Athletics
Earlier this season, the A's appeared destined to trade prospective free agent Jed Lowrie and suddenly dominant closer Blake Treinen. Slugger Khris Davis was another candidate to be dealt. It was even possible that executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst would take advantage of a thin starting pitching market to sell high on left-hander Sean Manaea.

Not anymore. Oakland has been one of the best teams in baseball since the beginning of June. It ended the first half by playing three consecutive contenders -- the Indians, Astros and Giants -- and won every series. The A's are only three games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot and could thwart the narrative behind Seattle's storybook season.

Video: TB@NYM: Eovaldi K's 9 over 7 shutout, drives in a run

Oakland's inspired play entering the All-Star break means the A's are very likely to add, rather than subtract, Major League talent at the Deadline. They are considering rental starting pitchers such as Nathan Eovaldi, Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ.

Angels
The Angels were tied for first in the competitive AL West as recently as May 14, but they have played sub-.500 baseball since then while losing starter Garrett Richards and closer Keynan Middleton to Tommy John surgeries.

Mike Trout is due to become a free agent after the 2020 season, and the Halos will be reluctant to concede any opportunity to reach the playoffs between now and then. But the Athletics' ascent in the AL West -- in addition to the established Astros and Mariners -- makes it harder to envision a second-half rally by the Angels.

Video: SEA@LAA: Skaggs K's 5 over 6 innings of 1-run ball

If general manager Billy Eppler embraces the concept of selling, GMs around the industry will come calling. Left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney are particularly valuable given the shortage of available starters, and new closer Blake Parker has been effective for a second straight year.

Rockies
On June 17, the Rockies' bullpen surrendered seven earned runs in a 13-12 loss to the Rangers that seemed to shatter any hopes of a second straight postseason appearance for Colorado. And yet the Rockies quietly have been one of the National League's best teams since then. They entered the All-Star break on a five-game winning streak to pull within two games of the second NL Wild Card spot.

Video: TB@MIN: Gibson fans 9 over 8 innings of 1-run ball

Unless they stumble terribly out of the break, the Rockies will look to add pitching help before the Deadline. The Twins -- with starters Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Lynn -- are a potential trade partner if Colorado prioritizes rotation help. Among relievers, Reds right-hander Jared Hughes has good career numbers at Coors Field.

Giants
The Giants weren't set up to have an especially active Deadline, even before they dropped two of three games to the A's last weekend. San Francisco has the largest payroll in the NL, and there's precious little room to maneuver under the luxury tax threshold.

Video: OAK@SF: Samardzija returns to DL with shoulder issue

It's possible the Giants could buy and sell, by trading expensive players in order to clear the payroll space for a bat or bullpen arm. To that end, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported recently that starter Jeff Samardzija was available. But after Samardzija landed on the disabled list again Sunday with right shoulder inflammation, the chances of him being traded by July 31 are nearly zero.

Cardinals
If the season ended today, the Cardinals would miss the playoffs for a third straight year. That has not happened in nearly two decades (1997-99). For an organization that values consistency, Saturday night's dismissal of manager Mike Matheny ushered in a period of change.

In that way, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak could decide to move veteran players for reasons apart from the team's third-place standing in the NL Central. A surplus of outfielders created by the emergence of Harrison Bader may result in Tommy Pham or Dexter Fowler being traded. Jedd Gyorko, signed through next year with a team option for 2020, has value in the market as a utility player.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.