Madison Bumgarner stepped off the mound in the middle of the inning that day in 2014 and focused an icy stare on the Detroit Tigers dugout. He caught the eye of the player heckling him.
"I'll come over there and tear your head off," Bumgarner yelled.
Stuff like this gets said hundreds of times a year as players go back and forth at one another during games. This time felt different. This time, it seemed he might actually do it.
"Are you serious?" the player asked, smiling.
Again, that stare.
"I'm damn serious," Bumgarner said.
With that, the Detroit guy took a seat and said no more. This incident lasted maybe 30 seconds but has been recounted several times since as Bumgarner's teammates and coaches pass along stories of his raging competitive fire.
Perhaps only Buster Posey has played a bigger role in the Giants winning the World Series three times between 2010 and 2014. In 16 postseason games, Bumgarner has a microscopic 2.11 ERA, and his performance in the 2014 World Series -- one earned run in 21 innings -- will rank among the great performances in the history of the Fall Classic.
To trade a player that has meant so much to a franchise is as difficult as anything an executive will ever do. And the Giants appear to be toying with doing just that.
The Giants and Brewers have had "substantive communication" regarding a trade that would send Bumgarner to Milwaukee, according to our Jon Paul Morosi. Morosi reports that the Giants trading Bumgarner is "far from certain," but that the Brewers appear to be the most engaged in trade discussions.
Guess what? It's probably the right thing to do. If the hiring of Farhan Zaidi as Giants president of baseball operations last November represented a turning of the page, then dealing Bumgarner would be a dramatic signal that a new era has arrived.
Nothing Zaidi ever does in this gig is likely to be as difficult as this, and there are plenty of reasons to argue against it. First, the Giants have the resources to re-sign Bumgarner before he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season.
Second, if this era has taught us anything, it's that teams can bounce back from bad seasons. For the Giants, who lost 89 games in 2018, that's a big ask even if starting pitchers Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija are healthy and youngsters Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez continue to grow.
And even if all that happens, there are challenges. Only the Marlins scored fewer runs than the Giants in 2018, and to think that all those infielders will be better and that Zaidi will be able to find an impact bat for the outfield is a big ask.
His logical choices are to deal Bumgarner now or to play out the first four months of the season and see if the market for him increases. To do that would be risking an injury or a regression in stuff. He threw his fastball a career-low 34 percent of the time in his 21 starts last season and will be 30 in August.
To turn the page now essentially begins a new era of Giants baseball. Milwaukee's farm system is loaded, and while Brewers general manager David Stearns has resisted overpaying for rental players, his team's window for winning a World Series is very much open.
In fact, Stearns has resisted trading prospects, period. He made an exception for outfielder Christian Yelich a year ago because he saw him as the kind of talent that's almost impossible to acquire (and signed for five seasons, through 2022). That move paid off with the Brewers having their best season since 2011 and Yelich being named National League MVP.
Milwaukee's top two prospects according to MLB Pipeline -- second baseman Keston Hiura and outfielder Corey Ray -- could be in the big leagues in 2019. Stearns will resist trading either of them for a rental, but his system is deep enough to find a fit.
Besides, what's the value of someone who can be a difference maker in a division race with the Cubs and Brewers and then in October? Until injuries derailed Bumgarner the last two seasons, he had averaged 32 starts and 213 innings in his six full Major League seasons.
The Brewers led the NL with 96 victories in 2019 and got within one victory of the World Series. With a great outfield, a lights-out bullpen and a slew of gifted young starting pitchers, they'll go to Spring Training awash in good vibes. To add Bumgarner to this mix would send a message to every Brewers player, coach and fan that the club is all in for 2019. That's why this trade makes sense. For both teams.