The trade deadline has passed. Sure, teams can still acquire players through the waiver trade process, but those players generally do not offer large impacts. Players available during this time are usually not the best players, and there is just not a lot of time to amass significant value. There are some exceptions. Josh Willingham was a nice pickup for the Royals down the stretch run last year.
September callups can also provide some impact. Those are usually prospects who are getting their first or second cup of major league brew. The timeframe for these players to offer an impact is even shorter than waiver trade fellows though, not to mention they're prospects, so who knows what they'll do.
Another route for improvement is simply regaining the players that teams once had. In other words, players returning from injury. There are a few prominent injured players who could return for their team's stretch run.
Gordon was having another excellent season, rolling along at about a 5.4 fWAR/600 plate appearances pace. Then he injured his groin while chasing after a fly ball near the wall. He lost his footing and collapsed. It is rumored that the flow of oxygen to carbon dioxide was temporarily disrupted simply because Royals fans forgot to breathe for a period of time until they heard his injury was not as severe as expected. Many people thought a broken ankle or torn ACL, MCL, or achilles tendon were possible. Nope. Groin.
After losing Gordon, the Royals turned to the trade market to shore up their outfield. They acquired Ben Zobrist to play all the positions, but the main position he has played so far is left field. Zobrist and Gordon are similar players - good offense, good defense. Gordon is much better at outfield defense, but Zobrist makes that up by being uber-flexible.
However, despite getting Zobrist, the Royals still have to trot out Alex Rios and Paulo Orlando in the outfield fairly often. Orlando is a nice story, but Gordon is a much better player. According to Jeffrey Flanagan, Gordon might begin a minor league rehab assignment in late August or early September. This is plausible due to Gordon's ridiculous work ethic and exercise habits; the man has not eaten a hot dog since 2012 (and he's probably all the better for it). Therefore, Gordon could return for the stretch run. Steamer projects half a win in 67 PA and 16 games, which is probably a decent estimate given the time-frame for his potential rehab assignment. Orlando is projected to be replacement level for the rest of the season, while Rios is not much better.
Even after accounting for the small sample size, Gordon's impact on the Royals for the stretch run is still going to be small. The Royals hold a 12 game lead in the AL Central, so their playoff position is all but guaranteed. Gordon's impact will be felt more in the playoffs. The small sample size of the playoffs is much more subject to the wild swings of an amazing defensive play vs. a good try, good effort play. Gordon is fully capable of the amazing.
Also, a Gordon-Cain-Zobrist outfield would be phenomenal and unfair to the rest of the American League. Ned Yost does not plan on playing Zobrist at second much because 'Almost All-Star' Omar Infante [shudder] has to play there, so the outfield it is.
The Mets have been clawing up a slippery, muddy mountain in the NL East after their hot start cooled off. They have finally overtaken the Nats in terms of playoff probability, but their position is tenuous. The Mets acquired Juan Uribe and Yoenis Cespedes to help out the offense, and Travis d'Arnaud is back. They could use more help anyway.
David Wright has been out for spinal stenosis, but he began his rehab assignment only a few days ago. When he's healthy, Wright is a force that could provide some more stable footing as the Mets claw up that muddy mountain. Wright struggled a bit last year on offense, providing only a 99 wRC+, but he was at a 128 wRC+ in eight games this year. That's basically useless, but it is not impossible for Wright to come back a decent hitter.
ZiPS and Steamer disagree on Wright's potential contribution down the stretch due to playing time differences. He is rehabbing, and it is rather unclear when he might come back. In addition, the aforementioned Uribe plays third base -----Wright's position. By acquiring Uribe, the Mets were saying basically that they don't know if Wright can really help or not. If the Mets make the playoffs, Wright could be very useful in pinch-hitting situations that would limit the strain on his health but still present an opportunity for his prodigious offensive skills to manifest.
We here at Beyond the Box Score have written about the Blue Jays quite a bit recently. To be fair, they have done a lot of things worth writing about recently. As a Royals fan, they are the team I fear the most in a playoff matchup in the AL. This does not help my fears:
Photo of Blue Jays heading to New York. pic.twitter.com/AvVQRfdid5— Gruber's Mullet (@GrubersMullet) August 7, 2015
The addition of Stroman to their David Price-led rotation would add another rocket car or maybe that ridiculous car with the ridiculous guitar guy to the Blue Jays formidable army (Go see Mad Max if you haven't). Somehow, the addition of Stroman is not out of the question despite his serious knee injury earlier this year.
Stroman's rest-of-season projection do not really exist, so we'll have to go off his performance last year. Stroman pitched at about a 4.7 fWAR/200 innings pace last year. His strikeout rate was average-ish, but he did not walk many guys, he severely limited home runs, and he got a ton of ground balls. That's a recipe for success. The addition of Stroman to the rotation would give the Blue Jays a top three of Price, Stroman, and probably Dickey. Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada would be there to eat innings, and Drew Hutchison would be a weapon out of the bullpen.
Josh Harrison & A.J. Burnett
Since these two players are on the same team, they will be covered in one section. Both are progressing in their rehabs and could make appearances at the major league level before the season is over.
Harrison crashed back down to earth after his big 2014 breakout season. His strikeout rate and walk rate are both about the same as last year; it is the BABIP that fell back down. Not surprising. Unfortunately, his power came back down with the BABIP.
However, the Pirates are currently performing an experiment in their infield. They are testing how many statues they can place and shift during each plate appearance before their ground ball production allowed becomes unbearable. If MLB wants expedient games, they can't allow the Pirates to go move statues manually between each batter or even pitch within an at bat.
Michael Morse is playing first base sometimes. Aramis Ramirez has not performed well on offense (48 wRC+ with the Pirates) or defense (only a 92 percent success rate on plays rated as "routine" by Inside Edge with the Pirates). He plays third base. Pedro Alvarez is still there and plays third and first base. They could use a good defensive player on the infield. Harrison is a good, flexible defensive player projected for 0.7 fWAR rest-of-season by both ZiPS and Steamer. He is at least not a statue.
Burnett was having a quality season (3.06 ERA / 3.08 FIP / 3.47 xFIP) before being injured. The Pirates still have Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, but Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, and J.A. Happ sit far behind those two. It is not hard to see Burnett being an improvement if he comes back healthy.
Which other injured players could have an impact on your team?
. . .
Kevin Ruprecht is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. He also writes at Royals Review. If he missed an awesome injured player on your team, he apologizes profusely. You can follow him on Twitter at @KevinRuprecht.