The hottest topic in Braves Country this offseason surrounds the shortstop position. With Dansby Swanson testing free agency, Atlanta could go in several directions. Re-signing the former No. 1 pick is in the cards. He’s a leader in the clubhouse, just earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors, and fits the mold of what this club wants in its players. Swanson should be the first choice, but if the numbers don’t make sense, it’s not the end of the world.
Presidents, CEOs, and other executives for the Braves and Liberty Media have been outspoken about the club being a top-five payroll in baseball, which would be close to impossible without signing one of the premier shortstop free agents. Despite Ken Rosenthal’s report saying it’s Swanson or bust for the Braves, I still think there’s a chance Alex Anthopoulos sees someone like Trea Turner asking for only a few more million per year than Swanson and pulls the trigger.
Of course, the Atlanta Braves could trade for a replacement, similar to what the club did last winter with Matt Olson. Willy Adames has been a name floated around, and that would make sense, except for the fact that the Braves farm system has been depleted of talent with recent graduations and trades. Still, there is a logjam of pitchers at the AAA and Major League levels, so there is a little wiggle room for a potential trade.
Then, there are in-house candidates like Orlando Arcia and Vaughn Grissom, the latter of which has recently been praised for his potential as the future shortstop of the franchise by Ron Washington and Alex Anthopoulos.
With all of those options, I still see re-signing Swanson as the most likely outcome, and a panel of ESPN MLB analysts feels the same way. Of the seven predictions of where the four marquee free agent shortstops will sign, five individuals have the Braves landing Swanson.
Trea Turner: Seattle Mariners, nine years, $280 million
Carlos Correa: Giants, eight years, $270 million
Dansby Swanson: Braves, six years, $150 million
Xander Bogaerts: Boston Red Sox, six years, $168 million
Turner: Giants, eight years, $260 million
Correa: Baltimore Orioles, nine years, $300 million
Swanson: Braves, nine years, $150 million
Bogaerts: Chicago Cubs, six years, $180 million
“Swanson returning to the Braves just makes too much sense to me not to happen”
Turner: Philadelphia Phillies, eight years, $280 million
Correa: Giants, nine years, $285 million
Swanson: Dodgers, six years, $140 million
Bogaerts: Los Angeles Angels, six years, $184 million
Turner: Phillies, eight years, $270 million
Correa: Minnesota Twins, seven years, $230 million
Swanson: Braves, six years, $165 million
Bogaerts: Giants (or Cubs), six years, $180 million
Turner: Phillies, 10 years, $300 million
Correa: Giants, nine years, $310 million
Swanson: Braves, five years, $150 million
Bogaerts: Red Sox, six years, $175 million
Turner: Phillies, nine years, $270 million
Correa: Twins, eight years, $256 million
Bogaerts: Red Sox, five years, $150 million
Swanson: Braves, six years, $126 million
“In the end, if Swanson is to stay in Atlanta, the agreement has to be a deal that makes both sides a little uncomfortable — with the Braves paying Swanson more than they want to pay, and Swanson taking a little less than market value.”
Turner: Phillies, eight years, $270 million
Correa: Twins, nine years, $275 million
Swanson: Cubs, six years, $150 million
Bogaerts: Red Sox, seven years, $196 million
“… considering the Braves have shown they won’t let emotion prompt them to overextend on contracts and that, given how it has gone lately, they’ll probably plug Vaughn Grissom in at shortstop and watch him win Rookie of the Year.”
Interestingly, if the prediction didn’t have Swanson re-signing with the Braves, it had the club missing out on the big four entirely. For the two that didn’t have Atlanta and Swanson reaching an agreement, Schoenfield’s reason was the club wouldn’t give him more money than Acuna or the recently extended Harris. And Gonzalez’s was the club doesn’t overextend on contracts and will likely turn to future Rookie of the Year Vaughn Grissom.
Schoenfield is thinking like a casual. It’s just how contracts in sports work. Sure, Dansby Swanson might never be the kind of player Acuna or Harris are, but he’s in his prime and just had the best season of his career in a contract year. It’s the natural order of things. Gonzalez’s rationale resonates with me more. The Braves have been outspoken about preparing for the worst-case scenario of Swanson walking and turning to Grissom; it’s certainly plausible, even if I don’t like it.
Bradford Doolittle’s nine-year, $150 million contract prediction is almost as funny as his name. Of all the contract projections, Jesse Rogers and Kiley McDaniel are the closest to what will actually happen — $25-27 million AAV. A six-year, $150-165 million contract for Dansby Swanson is more than palatable. With the shift ban taking place next season, there will be an emphasis on defense, and Swanson is the best defensive shortstop in the game; that matters.
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire