There's a theme right now surrounding the Athletics, and it goes like this: Now or never.
That's in regards to A's ownership, the City of Oakland and all parties involved in trying to get the franchise to stay in the Bay and build a waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal. It's also how ownership should feel regarding the upcoming MLB trade deadline.
Entering Thursday, the A's own a 55-42 record, which places them three games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the AL West. Oakland also is 3.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners for the second AL wild-card spot, well on track to its fourth straight playoff appearance. Settling for a playoff berth shouldn't be enough, though. Playing the waiting game, in all aspects, has run its course.
The A's got over their wild-card demons last year when they took down the Chicago White Sox. That was in a three-game series, however, not the dreaded one-game showdown. They know how important winning the division is and the AL West well within their reach. What should make them even more ready to crank this season into gear is the reality that things might not get much easier anytime soon.
Just look around the division. The Mariners are on the rise and have some of the best prospects in baseball. The Astros have shown their willingness to win -- albeit too far at times. And the Los Angeles Angels still have those guys named Trout and Ohtani.
And then there's the A's.
Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are just going to get more expensive in arbitration and are under club control for only two more years. Chapman's agent Scott Boras, who represents many of the game's stars, also has voiced his frustrations with the organization over the last seven months. Jake Diekman has a team option after this season, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea both have one more year of arbitration before becoming free agents and Mark Canha is a free agent this upcoming offseason.
The farm system also isn't doing them any favors.
As a whole, the A's farm system ranks near the very bottom in all of baseball. They have just one prospect -- Tyler Soderstrom -- who could be considered a top-100 prospect, and he's only 19 years old. Jesús Luzardo was supposed to be an ace by now, but he has struggled and still is in Triple-A after a mid-season demotion. A.J. Puk now is 26 years old, can't stay healthy and has only appeared in 11 major league games in his career.
The A's have a competitive team as is. The right moves can make them true championship contenders. We're not talking simple depth pieces, though. Think bigger.
Envision Nelson Cruz mashing at the Oakland Coliseum. The same goes with Joey Gallo. Perhaps they can bring Bryan Reynolds back to the Bay. Adding another arm to the rotation like Kyle Gibson or Jose Berrios would ease the tension off Bassitt, and there should be plenty of bullpen options to consider like Craig Kimbrel, Richard Rodriguez, Taylor Rogers or perhaps a Sean Doolittle reunion is in the cards.
A Trevor Story dream likely is nothing more than just that -- a dream, far from reality. But the thinking shouldn't be.
Remember Marcus Semien? He was named an All-Star this year for the first time and has 23 home runs. Elvis Andrus has two homers, and his .585 OPS is the worst by any everyday shortstop in the AL. Liam Hendriks? He closed out the All-Star Game and leads the AL with 23 saves.
Both were stars for the A's in the past. Both are stars for other teams now.
With a wide-open AL and yet another competitive roster despite losing key players, the time is now for the A's. They have the talent, they have the right manager and this just might be their best chance to realize those World Series dreams.
Off the field, the franchise and the city are playing the waiting game when it comes to the team's future after the council voted 6-1-1 to approve a non-binding agreement Tuesday on its own proposal. On the field, the waiting game needs to be a thing of the past. It's best for the players, the fans and all of Oakland.
The people deserve it.