The San Francisco Giants could use their payroll flexibility and the New York Yankees desire to spend in this winter to bolster the farm system in a creative way.
If nothing else, San Francisco Giants team president Farhan Zaidi has shown a willingness to think outside the box when it comes to adding value to the organization.
He cast a wide net to find a backup catcher last spring and hit on a bounce-back season from Stephen Vogt.
He took a flier on journeyman Donovan Solano and found arguably the best utility infielder in baseball.
He somehow turned a struggling Drew Pomeranz into a trade asset and flipped him for second baseman of the future Mauricio Dubon.
So what will he do for his next trick?
A simple phone call to the New York Yankees and a willingness to add some payroll could be all it takes for the team to add another quality prospect to a farm system on the rise.
Hear me out.
According to Spotrac, the Yankees already have $166.7 million on the books for 2020, assuming Aroldis Chapman opts-in, Edwin Encarnacion has his option exercised, and their bill for arbitration-eligible players is $37.6 million as projected.
That leaves them with $41.3 million to spend before they reach the luxury tax threshold.
If they are going to make a serious run at signing Gerrit Cole, it will likely take north of $30 million annually to sign him. Beyond that, they still have a new contract for Brett Gardner and a new contract or replacement for Dellin Betances to consider.
In other words, money is a factor in the team’s offseason plans.
With that in mind, it stands to reason that they would be supremely motivated to unload the $17 million luxury tax figure that J.A. Happ carries for 2020.
Happ, 37, posted a disappointing 4.91 ERA in 161.1 innings and found himself relegated to the bullpen down the stretch in the first season of a two-year, $34 million contract that includes a $17 million vesting option for 2021 if he reaches 165 innings or 27 starts in 2020.
Would the Yankees be desperate enough to attach a quality prospect to Happ if it meant the Giants were willing to take on his entire salary?
There’s some precedent for such a deal.
On June 20, 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded Bronson Arroyo and his $9.5 million salary to the Atlanta Braves, along with pitching prospect Touki Toussaint, in exchange for injured utility infielder Phil Gosselin.
Toussaint had just been taken No. 16 overall in the 2014 draft, and he began the 2015 season as the No. 5 prospect in the Arizona system, according to Baseball America.
“In order to move the contract, Touki had to become a part of it,” D-backs general manager Dave Stewart told reporters. “For what we’re trying to do, the money is definitely important. We’ve said we’re going to try to do what we can to promote our young pitching, but also have some savings so we can have the opportunity to do things at a later date.”
That certainly sounds like the mindset the Yankees could have this offseason.
The New York system is loaded with high-ceiling pitching prospects in the lower levels of the minors, and the Yankees are built to win now, so they could be willing to move one of them for a chance at some financial relief.
Meanwhile, the Giants are still in the process of rebuilding and could conceivably squeeze some value out of Happ if he can make 30 starts and eat up innings, while at the same time adding a quality prospect to the farm system.
It’s an idea worth exploring and something that shouldn’t be ruled out with the creative Zaidi steering the ship for the San Francisco Giants.