Friday, Aug. 31 is an important date on the Major League Baseball calendar. Once September rolls around, any player who wasn't already in an organization will no longer be considered eligible to partake in the postseason for that team. As such, teams will be busy between now and Friday night as they attempt to patch up any and all holes on their roster.
To give everyone an idea of what might be in store over the next few days, we decided to highlight seven players who could find themselves on the move before August ends. Obviously these aren't the only candidates, just the seven we felt were most likely to go. The players are listed in alphabetical order.
We covered Josh Donaldson's situation in greater detail on Monday, but here's the skinny. He hasn't played in a big-league game since May due to injury. He started a rehab assignment on Tuesday, which means he's now eligible to be placed on waivers. Donaldson is a free agent at season's end and was having a worse year at the plate than usual before he was hurt (his 109 OPS+ would be his lowest mark since 2012). Still, other teams figure to have interest in Donaldson, thus allowing the Blue Jays to recoup some value before September begins.
Logan Forsythe has already been dealt once in the past month, when he was sent to the Twins as part of the Brian Dozier return. Forsythe has since performed well, batting .337/.409/.386 in 23 games. Considering he hadn't hit much in his season-plus with the Dodgers, it's unlikely that any contender will view him as a big addition. We're listing him here because he's a pending free agent and there's always the chance some club wants him as a versatile bench piece.
Recent woes have tanked Gio Gonzalez's appeal to contenders. An impending free agent, he entered August with a 3.78 ERA across 21 starts. He's since allowed five or more runs in three of his five appearances. Gonzalez has a track record as an average or better starter, so it's at least possible a contender will overlook his August and slot him into their playoff rotation.
Curtis Granderson has quietly put together a fine season with the Blue Jays. He entered Tuesday hitting .240/.338/.427 with 11 home runs, numbers that result in a 111 OPS+. (He had a 116 OPS+ at the time of last year's trade to the Dodgers.) Granderson has to be hid against southpaws, and he's not an asset defensively. Nonetheless, he's a plus in the clubhouse and against right-handed pitching. That ought to be enough to land him on a contender.
There isn't much out there on the starting pitcher market. To wit, Francisco Liriano is one of the top arms presumed to be available. Liriano has technically been around an average starter this season, per his 92 ERA+, but he remains as wild as ever and he no longer misses bats as frequently. A creative team could look at Liriano's dominance over same-handed batters (.458 OPS against) and throw him in the bullpen as a specialist, much like the Astros did last season.
Andrew McCutchen, who has already cleared waivers, is the player most everyone expects to be moved between now and Sept. 1. Though he isn't the player he used to be, he's a durable, above-average hitter who is also a positive in the clubhouse. Shedding what's left of McCutchen's $14.75 million salary would also help the Giants stay under the luxury tax. Add it all up, and one has to assume McCutchen will finish the season in another team's uniform.
Finally, there's James Shields. One of the last remaining true workhorses, Shields has done well this season to show he has something left in the tank -- even if it's only as a back-end starter. No team is going to exercise his option for next season, and the White Sox could well decided they'd rather keep him around and tether him to their young arms, namely Michael Kopech.