You’ve just got to love this time of year. No matter how absurd a rumor might sound – how far-fetched, how implausible – it can still grow wings and fly.

Phil Rogers dropped a bombshell this weekend about a prospective Cubs/Yankees trade involving Alfonso Soriano. Say what you will about Rogers’ speculations and theories (they’re, eh hem, frequently “wild”), but after decades in the industry, he’s got sources.

An unconfirmed rumor from the Cubs camp has the Yankees studying a major trade with the Cubs, which you could classify as one-stop shopping. Talks are believed to be in the early stages, but it’s worth noting that one of the names in play is Alfonso Soriano.

Most believe Soriano is an immovable object because the 35-year-old outfielder is owed almost $63 million in a deal that doesn’t expire until after 2014. But the Yankees were seeking more production from left field (12th in the AL with 28 RBIs) even before Alex Rodriguez had knee surgery that could keep him out for six weeks.

Soriano’s play in the next week or so could determine whether talks get more serious. He hit 10 of his 14 home runs in April and had only two extra-base hits in his first 37 at-bats in July.

To trade Soriano, who could use his no-trade clause to block the deal, the Cubs would have to agree to pick up a lot of the $63 million he’s owed and put an attractive piece in the deal. That probably would be Sean Marshall, as the Yankees need to improve their setup situation, and he would be a major upgrade from Boone Logan.

With Rodriguez sidelined and designated hitter Jorge Posada struggling from the right side of the plate, Aramis Ramirez also could enter discussions. But it’s finding a way to move Soriano that would do the most to raise general manager Jim Hendry’s standing with Chairman Tom Ricketts.

First thing: this time of year, countless teams are discussing countless trades with countless other teams. The talks reach varying stages – exploratory calls, discussing target names, discussing prospect names, exchanging offers, etc. – but 98% are not consummated. I have no doubt that the Cubs are in talks with the Yankees about any number of players. And I have no doubt that the Yankees are in talks with any number of other teams about any number of other players.

That all said, a trade involving Alfonso Soriano has to be desperately attractive to the Cubs. This year has shown – if it wasn’t clear already – that Soriano cannot play reasonably passable defense in left field anymore. He’s under contract for three more years in a league without a DH. At some point the Cubs are going to be confronted with the very real choice between having an $18 million bench player, or eating as much as $12 to $14 million per year just to be rid of Soriano.

Any deal involving Soriano is going to look ugly on paper. Steel yourself from any thoughts that the Cubs can get anything more worthwhile than a few million bucks of salary relief. And worse, if those few million bucks are to become several million bucks, the Cubs will have to throw in another valuable player/prospect or two. The piper must be paid for the sins of 2007.

The only way a deal involving Soriano might look to fans like a success is (a) if the Cubs eat such a sizable amount of the remaining contract that they can actually get back a useful piece or two; or (b) if the Cubs take on an ugly contract in return, but which gives them a more useful player than Soriano. From the Yankees, I’m not quite sure whom that player would be.

Setting aside the Soriano piece, it’s interesting to hear Rogers describe the prospective deal as “one-stop shopping.” How many other pieces would the Cubs give up? Rogers mentions Marshall (who is almost certainly off the table) and Ramirez, but is there more? The Yankees could use a solid starting pitcher, what with the injuries and recent ineffectiveness besetting their rotation.

Bundling several players together in one deal is probably the Cubs’ best bet, not only because it potentially consolidates their return (i.e., one excellent player is a better return than two good players), but also because it increases the likelihood that the Cubs will be able to deal all the players they want to deal. Trades are hard to put together.

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