This scenario, while not likely to be in play at this time with the Yankees pursuing Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka and several other frontline starting pitching options still available in free agency, could quickly become a reality.
If the team is not willing to go over the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014—as I wrote two days ago, they're close now even with the savings from not having to pay Alex Rodriguez's big salary in 2014—or if they are unable to sign at least one of the top four starters remaining from Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana for any other reason, the starting rotation would be a huge question mark heading into the 2014 season with staff ace CC Sabathia coming off of a terrible second half (6.08 ERA in 12 starts) and two spots up in the air after soon-to-be 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova.
In addition, the Yankees bullpen might be equally questionable at this point with David Robertson currently slated to step into the closer's role and no proven options to step into his place as the primary setup man. And with the third base opening created by Rodriguez's one-year suspension currently expected to be filled by some combination of Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nuñez and Scott Sizemore, it's also not a bad idea to explore a Gardner-for-starting third baseman deal.
Trading Gardner, who had a .759 OPS with 33 doubles, 10 triples, eight homers and 24 stolen bases in 2013, might be the most cost-effective way to fill a much bigger hole on the roster. Their pitching staff has some gaping holes that are quite obvious. Meanwhile, they should have enough depth with Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Abraham Almonte to make up for the loss of Gardner in left field.
While I don't see a potential trade for a starting third baseman out there, here are three trade ideas that could land the Yankees a starting pitcher and another for a late-inning reliever.