Braves preparing for worst case scenario: Dansby Swanson walks

Vaughn Grissom

Free agency became a lot less exciting for Braves fans following Ken Rosenthal’s report that it is basically Dansby Swanson or bust this offseason. He doesn’t see the Braves ponying up the necessary cash for Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, or Xander Bogaerts. He also views Jacob deGrom or any other frontline starter as a long shot, given the team’s current cap situation.

Two other things that are highly unlikely for the Braves: The signing of deGrom or a shortstop other than Dansby Swanson. If the Braves cannot keep Swanson, they probably will be out of the picture for Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, all of whom figure to be more expensive.

No player currently with the Braves will earn more than $22 million in any season over the course of his contract, seemingly creating the flexibility for a major expenditure. But the Braves are reluctant to enter into a deal with any player who takes up too high a percentage of their payroll, knowing in future seasons the salaries of their young players will rise.

I agree with Rosenthal regarding the Braves rotation; they don’t need to add a frontline starter at such a high price point. But I’m still holding out hope this might be the offseason Atlanta decides to go all out and sign a mega-star like Trea Turner. After all, the AAV between Swanson and an upgrade like Turner wouldn’t be too significant, and the Braves do have a lot of money coming off the books over the next few years, even if other players’ salaries will rise.

However, what if it really is Dansby Swanson or bust, and the Braves strike out this winter? Where do they turn from there? I really have no idea. A trade would make the most sense, but Ron Washington seems to adamantly believe that Vaughn Grissom could be the starting shortstop in Atlanta.

“I don’t think Dansby is replaceable unless they go get a superstar,” Washington said Tuesday, via David O’Brien of The Athletic. “But we can handle the position. We’ve got (Orlando) Arcia, and we’ve got Grissom — that kid is getting better and better every day. He’s here in New Orleans right now, and I’m telling you, he’s improving big-time.”

Grissom burst onto the scene with the Braves after being called up out of necessity following injuries to Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia. In his first 26 games, he was hitting .347 with a .956 OPS. But like with most rookies, pitchers began to figure him out, and he struggled mightily down the stretch and into the postseason. Despite that, he still finished the season with a .291 average and five homers over 41 games. That’s well above average for a shortstop if he can sustain that level of offense. The question is whether he can handle the defensive duties that come with the position, which are arguably even more pivotal than what he brings to the plate.

“So I’m taking this opportunity to instill as much as I possibly can in him, so that when we hit spring training, if it so happens that we don’t sign Dansby back, we have some options,” Washington continued regarding Grissom, via David O’Brien of The Athletic. “We also have Arcia. So we’ve got some options. But this kid (Grissom) has got some upside. And we’ve got to have him ready for whatever may go down.”

The Braves have said on multiple occasions they plan to be a top-five payroll in baseball. If that’s the case, they won’t be afraid to go into the luxury tax, and they should have no problem adding one of the premier shortstops on the market, whether that be Dansby Swanson or someone else. Regardless, it should bring a smile to the face of every Braves fan seeing Ron Washington taking this kind of interest in Grissom. No matter what happens this offseason, the kid will benefit tremendously from this extra preparation, and who knows? The Braves could need him at shortstop much sooner than anticipated.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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