A few days ago, I wrote an article examining some shortstop options the Braves might explore on the free-agent market next offseason. There are several All-Stars set to hit free agency, and Atlanta should have plenty of money to spend. However, while there are some enticing options, the best bet might be the guy currently manning shortstop for the Braves.
Out of all the reasons to retain Swanson, defense has to be at the top of the list. Dansby flashed the leather in the heartbreaking 6-7 loss yesterday, making a plethora of difficult, game-saving stops. Swanson ranks in the top 3% of Major League Baseball in outs above average — something that neither Correa, Turner, or Bogaerts bring to the table. For all the hate Dansby gets from fans, nobody can say he plays poor defense; he’s probably the best defensive shortstop in baseball.
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) May 18, 2022
Swanson’s outstanding defense has made him arguably the most valuable piece on the Braves this season, despite his struggles at the plate sometimes. And his defense could become even more critical after this season because the league is doing away with the shift. That will put a lot more pressure on the middle infielders, and few people should benefit from that more than Swanson.
I’m not going to sit here and say Dansby is a wizard at the plate. He’s a streaky hitter. But there is no way he continues striking out 40% of the time. Do I like the fact that he’s so wildly inconsistent? Of course not, but when Swanson is hot, he can hit as well as any other shortstop in baseball. That’s something that most people tend to forget in the midst of one of his slumps.
As last year showed, Swanson is capable of hitting almost 30 homers and maintaining an OPS of .750+. When you combine that with his defense, he’s a top-ten shortstop in the game. That doesn’t even take into account the leadership he brings to the locker room, and the type of overall winning style of baseball he plays.
Could the Braves upgrade this offseason at the position? Certainly. Guys like Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts are all MVP candidates, but for what Swanson will cost this offseason compared to them, he may turn out to be the best bargain of the bunch.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire