The late-August trade deadline is no more, but fortunately for Major League Baseball playoff contenders, a cherished trope from years past will truly come into play as teams head for the homestretch and the postseason.
Yep, a handful of players returning from injury will be more impactful than the proverbial trade acquisition.
With division races tightening up and wild-card battles gaining definition, a handful of stars are on the mend from injuries, many of them months-long, impactful absences. Their returns could be even more important – on who gets in the playoffs, and who advances within commissioner Rob Manfred’s expansive bracket.
A glimpse at seven players who can upset the balance of power, in order of potential impact:
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Bryce Harper, Phillies
Out since: June 25, when he suffered a fractured left thumb that required surgery.
Next step: Harper took more than 50 swings at Citizens Bank Park on Monday and could begin a rehab assignment next week.
Big picture: The reigning NL MVP was having another trophy-worthy year (.318/.386/.599, 15 homers) when a Blake Snell pitch fractured his thumb. Most significantly, the Phillies finally found their sea legs without him and moved firmly into wild card position. Can they threaten Atlanta, which leads them by six games, for home field advantage? Probably not, but a red-hot Harper in September and October would give Philly…