Why the Braves shouldn’t sign a frontline starter over a marquee free agent shortstop

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The talk of the town for Braves Country this winter revolves around Dansby Swanson and the shortstop position. The first-time free agent is coming off a career year and is in line to receive a lucrative contract. Obviously, Atlanta would be wise to re-sign Swanson, but I’ve seen people clamoring on social media about putting that money toward a frontline starter, chiefly Jacob deGrom.

I have to disagree completely. Bill Shanks of Athens Banner-Herald did an excellent job bringing up valid points as to why Swanson might not be worth the potential contract he garners.

“But he will turn 29 years old in February – that and his .255 career batting average are red flags. Swanson hit .216 in April this past season, and then he hit .245 in the final two months of the regular season. Things didn’t improve in the playoffs, as Swanson went 2-for-16. In between May and July, Swanson hit .298 and looked like a completely different hitter. But that’s what begs the questions: should you pay a player who can often be inconsistent $25 million a season? Do the Braves want to make Swanson the highest paid player on the team with legit questions about how good he will be offensively during the course of a five-year contract?”

Those are all valid concerns and resonate with me, but where Shanks continues is just asinine.

“Instead, the Braves should sign a pitcher. Use that money that can be saved by replacing Swanson with the young, inexpensive Grissom to sign a starting pitcher. And there’s no one better to bring in than Mets’ right-hander Jacob deGrom.”

I’m going to generalize these scenarios because there are instances where what I’m trying to say could be misconstrued. The Braves should allocate their financial resources to filing the shortstop void with a marquee free agent over signing a frontline starter. It doesn’t have to be Swanson over deGrom, Trea Turner over Carlos Rodon, or anything combination — just prioritize the shortstop position over the rotation.

It’s relatively simple why, too. Pay the player who is going to play every day and fill your team’s single biggest need, not bolster the strength of the team. The Braves rotation doesn’t need upgrading; it’s already one of the best groups of starters in baseball, with four proven arms ready to go next season. And with the fifth spot up for grabs, the Braves have a slew of young guns vying for one spot. In comparison, the Braves aren’t equipped to handle the blow of losing Swanson.

The Braves have talked up the potential of Vaughn Grissom, but going into next season with Orlando Arcia or Grissom as the everyday shortstop would be a mistake for a club with World Series aspirations. And with the shift ban taking place next year, there will be an emphasis on defense. As I said, Bill Shanks has some valid points and signing Swanson certainly comes with risks, but to use those resources on a frontline starter wouldn’t be wise.

If it does come to letting Swanson walk, AA should venture out into uncharted waters and sign one of the other three high-profile free agent shortstops. If that’s not possible, trading for someone like Willy Adames is certainly in the cards, especially since the Braves have an excess of starting pitchers in between the AAA and Major League levels. However, in that scenario, the money saved still shouldn’t be spent on someone like Jacob deGrom. Left field is a situation that deserves more attention than the rotation. It’s arguably the biggest strength of the team, and Braves Country wants the club to continue to pour money into it? No, thank you.

Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire


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