Big finishes to the season can mean a variety of things to players. In some instances — J.A. Happ, for example — a late run of excellence can help a player land a contract that would’ve been otherwise unthinkable. Trevor Cahill and Fernando Rodney may have been in line for minor league contracts this past offseason were it not for their late showings with the Cubs. Of course, not every big finish ends with a massively boosted payday. Daniel Murphy’s late power surge was one of the game’s most notable narratives last October, but speculation about a sudden five-year contract never came to fruition, and he ended up with a three-year contract that now looks to be one of the game’s great bargains.
We don’t know what the future holds for these players, but here are five free agent bats that are impressing late in the year…
- Carlos Gomez: Astros fans should probably look away. Since joining the division-rival Rangers, Gomez has batted an outstanding .291/.371/.564 in 31 games. He’s cut his strikeout rate by more than five percent while significantly boosting his walk rate, and the eight homer he’s hit in a month with the Rangers are just one shy of the nine he hit in 126 games as a member of the Astros. Gomez played his way out of a job in Houston, but his recent run with the Rangers looks an awful lot like his peak years from 2012-14 in Milwaukee. That could be enough to land him a multi-year contract this offseason, though a one-year pact in an attempt to further boost his value remains an option as well. And of course, Gomez will have further opportunities to add to his value in the postseason, as the Rangers have clinched the AL West.
- Josh Reddick: The month of September has largely balanced out what was one of the worst months of Reddick’s career in August. He’s being platooned pretty heavily, which won’t help his free-agent value as much as showing competence versus left-handers would have, but he’s batting .406/.446/.565 in 75 plate appearances over the past 30 days. It’s been a roller-coaster season for Reddick, who has mixed in a month-long DL stint with his hot and cold streaks, but the strong finish undoubtedly salvages some free agent stock that looked to have been dwindling. Like Gomez, he’ll have further opportunities to showcase for interested teams in the playoffs.
- Sean Rodriguez: The 31-year-old Rodriguez is quietly having an excellent season in Pittsburgh, where he’s batted .272/.350/.517 on the whole — including a ridiculous .329/.398/.605 slash and six homers over the past month. He’s also played every position on the field except pitcher and catcher this season, making him a versatile asset that’s finishing his year with a flourish. That could very well be enough to land Rodriguez the first multi-year contract of his career as he heads into his age-32 season.
- Kendrys Morales: I looked at Morales’ rising stock last week, and all he’s done in the interim is continue to rake. Over the past 30 days, Morales is hitting .327/.377/.625 with nine long balls, which only adds to the monstrous production he’s compiled since mid-June. There’s no reason for him to exercise his end of the mutual option the Royals hold over him, and he’ll be an interesting qualifying offer candidate. Morales would be a threat to accept, having been burned by the QO system once in the past, but his production, in a vacuum, is enough to earn a multi-year deal.
- Jose Bautista: Bautista’s reported asking price was one of the biggest stories in baseball back in Spring Training, but the prodigious slugger has had his worst season since breaking out with the Blue Jays in 2010. Bautista’s numbers are down across the board, he’s spent time on the disabled list, and defensive metrics have soured on his work in right field. He’s been great in the final month, though, hitting .250/.400/.438 with five homers across 120 plate appearances. Bautista still seems likely to turn down a QO in search of a more lucrative contract on the free agent market, and finishing out the regular season well (plus a potential postseason showcase) should help to quiet concerns about his health and ability to produce at a high level.