We're deep into the MLB offseason, which means the speculation machine is running on hot-stove fumes.
Some of the biggest free agents and trade targets have found homes. Now, it's time to sift through the remainder and concoct scenarios—both to stave off boredom and because once in a while this stuff actually happens.
In that spirit, here's a hypothetical deal that's pure speculation but bursting with plausible intrigue: The New York Yankees shipping left fielder Brett Gardner to the San Francisco Giants.
First, the rumor: The Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Tuesday, are continuing "to gauge interest" in Gardner, who has drifted through the rumor mill since the 2016 trade deadline at least.
New York, Sherman added, may be unable to make more moves without shedding salary as it proceeds with its rebuild/retool/whatever.
Gardner isn't a back-breaker, payroll-wise, but he's owed $12.5 million in 2017 and $11.5 million in 2018 with a $12.5 million team option and $2 million buyout for 2019.
That could be an impediment for San Francisco.
The Giants already signed closer Mark Melancon for four years and $62 million. They may be nearing the top of their budget.
"I don't think there's anything more to ask of ownership," general manager Bobby Evans said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's more what I can do with what we have."
That's the line for the time being. It may be the final line. Monetary constraints are often malleable, however.
The Giants are in a win-now window. Key members of their offensive core such as Buster Posey and Hunter Pence are in the twilight of their prime. Co-ace Johnny Cueto can opt out of his contract after 2017.
The even-year mystique was punctured last season when the Giants were bounced in the division series by the Chicago Cubs. Still, this is a playoff-caliber team with a hole in left field.
Enter the Yanks and Gardner.
The 33-year-old posted a .261/.351/.362 slash line in 2016 with six triples and 16 stolen bases and won his first career Gold Glove.
The Giants' incumbent left fielder, Angel Pagan, is a free agent. While Pence is Sharpied into right field and Denard Span in center, the best current option in left is the untested duo of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker.
New York, meanwhile, can turn to up-and-comers, such as Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, to join the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks in its outfield, with MiLB stud Clint Frazier coming down the pike.
Gardner would be missed. He's the Yankees' senior player at present, as Pinstripe Alley pointed out:
If dealing him allowed the Yanks the flexibility to bolster a questionable starting rotation, however, it'd be a tradeoff worth taking.
What would it cost to pry Gardner away from the Bronx?
"He's here not because I can't move him; he's here because I'm not comfortable moving him, or haven't been satisfied in my asks that would make me move him," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "You're going through the process, and you see if that changes. So far to this point, I've said no to a lot of different concepts thrown my way on it."
The Giants' farm system isn't bursting with blue-chips, but they do have talent.
Infielder Christian Arroyo, the club's top prospect per MLB.com, should be off-limits. A package headlined by power-hitting Chris Shaw (MLB.com's No. 6 first base prospect) and, say, left-hander Andrew Suarez could be enough to get New York's attention.
Gardner, it should be noted, won't solve the Giants' power problem. San Francisco hit the third-fewest home runs in the game last season. Gardner hit just seven.
His gap pop would play well in AT&T Park's Triples Alley, however. His defense and plate discipline would slot seamlessly into the Giants' current roster.
He's not a savior, but he won't come at a savior price in terms of prospects or payroll. The Giants will have to budge from their no-more-spending stance. They'll have to cough up some minor league capital. But they won't have to back up the Brink's truck.
As for the Yankees, they can further gild an already glistening farm system and shed some cash in the process.
Sounds like a win-win—and smells like a hot-stove special.