September baseball has arrived and there is certainly some meaningful baseball to be played. Superstars have been traded and we are beginning to see which teams are contenders and pretenders.
The free-agent class of 2012 is looking very promising at this point but that could all change when the games matter most. Players who will hit free agency this offseason have the opportunity to either make or lose a lot of money this month with their on-field performance.
A disaster September could mean disastrous offers from GMs. On the other hand, a hot bat or arm that is in top form during a pennant race can garner a huge payday for that player.
Here are five ways the free-agent landscape could change in September.
September will be the make-or-break month for C.C. Sabathia on whether he will opt out of his seven-year contract. He has pitched great thus far for the New York Yankees, and A.J. Burnett's struggles only help Sabathia's case for a larger contract.
If C.C. is even able to stay around .500 for the month of September he will opt out of his contract and force the Yankees to give him a raise (ridiculous, I know) because they know that they cannot afford to lose him. The only way Sabathia will not opt out of his contract is if he has a horrid month of September where he gets lit up every time he takes the mound and it continues into the postseason.
This is a real catch-22 for the Yankees faithful. Obviously they want to see their team succeed, but do they really want to see Brian Cashman shell out more money for one of their own players?
Phillies Nation knows that closer Ryan Madson has been a huge piece to the best team in baseball this season. The problem is that Scott Boras knows that too.
Madson has finally shown in his eighth major league season that he has the mental toughness to be a closer. He has always had the "stuff" with his mid-90s fastball and all-world changeup, but his 27 saves in 29 opportunities will demand big bucks in the offseason.
Madson has not given fans any reason to believe that he will continue to be anything but spectacular in September. His price tag continues to climb as his ERA drops and the Phillies have more pressing matters at hand with the contract extension for Cole Hamels.
Madson will seek a huge raise from the $4.8 million he is earning in 2011 and he will certainly get one with the way he has pitched.
Carlos Beltran will clearly receive a huge pay cut from the nearly $20 million he earns this season and a horrible September will scare many potential suitors away from the slugger. Beltran will be 35 next season and his body has taken a toll over the past 13 seasons.
He is hitting in the middle of a completely anemic San Francisco Giants lineup and will not see many pitches to hit. His power numbers have been down with the Giants and that will clearly hurt his value.
Beltran is having a nice bounce-back year, but a shaky month of September will remind the rest of baseball how big of a bust he had been with the New York Mets.
Jose Reyes was a legitimate NL MVP candidate before he got hurt this season. He still is having a tremendous year and he will be a hot commodity on the free-agent market this winter.
The New York Mets have little to play for at this point and they already seem to be looking forward to the offseason. Reyes is hitting just .269 with only one extra-base hit over the past seven days.
Reyes will absolutely be pursued by a myriad of teams but a disastrous month of September can only help the Mets' chances of retaining their superstar.
Jimmy Rollins has been the voice and swagger of the Philadelphia Phillies for quite some time and his value to their team goes beyond just statistics. The month of September will go a long way towards deciding the market for Rollins.
Rollins is having a solid year hitting .268 with 14 HRs and 58 RBI and he will have much of Phillies Nation outraged if he is not retained in the offseason. That is unless the Phillies get knocked out in the NLDS and Rollins go 0-12 in the series with six K's.
Rollins heats up (like the rest of the Phils lineup) in September and will lead the Phillies back to the World Series in 2011. It will be next to impossible for GM Ruben Amaro to stroll from J-Roll.