Once the Washington Nationals completed their World Series victory over the Houston Astros, it was only a matter of time before MLB's hot stove started heating up.
Temperatures are starting to warm, and it has baseball's rumor mill spinning.
Could the Atlanta Braves have identified their next ace? Will the New York Yankees soon lock up one of their long-term outfielders? We'll examine those questions and more below.
Atlanta Braves Making Madison Bumgarner a Priority?
The Atlanta Braves boasted one of the most electric offenses in baseball this past season, following the likes of Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman to top-10 finishes in runs, homers and batting average.
But their rotation had enough holes to short-circuit their playoff run in the NL Division Series.
After finishing just eighth in the league during the regular season with 873 innings, the Braves' starters again struggled providing length in the playoffs. Atlanta's starters never made it through five innings during the three playoff losses, including an abysmal one-third-inning effort by Mike Foltynewicz in Atlanta's elimination game.
Naturally, the Braves now have eyes on one of the best innings-eaters in this free-agent class.
According to NBC Sports' Alex Pavlovic, Atlanta has made Madison Bumgarner "a priority and planned to quickly communicate that to the left-hander."
Bumgarner hasn't been as sharp since a dirt bike accident in 2017, but he still threw 207.2 innings over 34 starts this past season, both of which would have paced Atlanta's staff.
A decorated postseason performer and three-time World Series champion, he has spent his entire career with the San Francisco Giants. But the North Carolina native could be ready for a change of scenery after the Giants have missed each of the past three postseasons.
Yankees, Brett Gardner Discussing New Deal?
Speaking of long-tenured players, Brett Gardner has been a fixture in the New York Yankees outfield since his big-league debut in 2008.
The 36-year-old is entering free agency, but that doesn't mean he'll have to fill out any change of address forms.
MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports the Yankees and Gardner "are already talking about trying to stay together contractually."
While not the same speed threat he once was, Gardner remains a force at the plate. He belted a career-best 28 homers this past season, while also notching personal bests in RBI (74) and OPS (.829).
The fact he's played at least 140 games each of the past seven seasons should make him all the more appealing to New York. The Yankees already lost Aaron Hicks for the foreseeable future to Tommy John surgery, and they can't know what to expect from oft-injured slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who played just 18 games this past year.
Martin Prado Calling It Quits?
After 14 seasons in the big leagues, Martin Prado may have had enough.
The free-agent veteran infielder "has told friends he will likely retire," per Heyman.
A consistent contact hitter throughout his career, the 36-year-old had struggled to shake the injury bug the past few seasons. The 104 games he played this past season were not only a three-year high, they were actually more appearances than he'd made the past two years combined (91).
Even when he played, it was clear he wasn't the same. A career .287 hitter, he managed just a .241 batting average the past three seasons and had just a .276 on-base percentage over that stretch. He also hit just five homers in that time, a low number for any position player, but problematically anemic production for someone who primarily played first base in 2019.
Nevertheless, the rough finish doesn't take away from a mostly rock-solid career. Consistency was one of his biggest strengths, and he even made an All-Star appearance in 2010, when he hit .307 with 15 homers and scored a career-high 100 runs.