Dansby Swanson doesn’t appear hurt or bitter about not re-signing with Braves

CHICAGO — From the time Arizona traded him to Braves in 2015, Dansby Swanson poured his heart and soul into the team.

He helped the team through its rebuild. He won a World Series and became an All-Star. He took home a Gold Glove Award.

And when he reached free agency, the Braves would not pay him what the Cubs did.

Did that hurt him?

“You know, I’d be sitting here lying being like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Swanson said. “We’re all human, right? I think that at times you wish – like, that would have been, in a way, the easier route. But just having prayed a ton about it and really kind of giving that part over to God just really made things clear and simple, that this is where he wanted myself and my wife (Mallory) to be. How can I argue with that? In a way, it’s like we have our own plans. But he’s got so much greater things in mind and so much more of a brilliant mind to piece things together than anything I could ever come with.”

Swanson on Friday spoke with reporters in the dugout – but not the Braves’ dugout. He wore blue and red, but lighter shades of each color. When he discussed the Braves, he did so as someone who is no longer in the clubhouse every day.

Swanson, a Marietta High School alum, is now with the Cubs, who have surged recently. They signed him because they loved his leadership skills that went along with his stellar on-field ability. They felt he was a perfect fit to help an up-and-coming team maximize its potential during a rebuilding period.

“It was one of the big reasons why I wanted to be here, was just be able to take a culture and kind of run with it,” Swanson said. “There’s so many good people over here, and there’s a lot of guys that have had an impact around here for numerous years as well. And being able to just build off that with one another has been so fun. I mean, just the unique challenge of being able to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and in a way, kind of, like, start fresh, has been really, really awesome.”

But perhaps the biggest factor is this: The Cubs gave Swanson $177 million over seven years. Last season, the Braves and Swanson engaged in conversations about a potential extension. The Braves are believed to have offered $100 million over six years, and Swanson’s camp countered with six years and $140 million.

The Cubs gave Swanson more than the Braves were willing to pay. It is that simple.

No one is at fault.

Why would Swanson take far less money than he feels he’s worth? And why would the Braves increase their offer if they felt they would be fine moving on without Swanson?

This is a business.

The relationships haven’t changed because of it. Swanson is still friends with his former teammates, from Austin Riley to Max Fried to others. A few hours before Friday’s game, Swanson greeted Braves coach Ron Washington, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, center fielder Michael Harris II and first baseman Matt Olson on the infield grass. They all chatted and laughed for a few minutes.

“It was a lot of times coming through the trenches together,” Swanson said. “It’s definitely a bond that doesn’t just go away when you’re in a different city and things of that nature.”

Of baseball being a business, Braves manager Brian Snitker said: “That doesn’t have any reflection on what I feel about the person, and the friendship and respect that I have for him and his family. Guys leave. And it happens, it’s part of it. The person, the relationship, things you go through over the course of time being part of the organization and an integral part of a team, that lives forever.”

Of course, Swanson misses Atlanta. Life can be slower in the South, he said. There’s more fried food. And playing there allowed him to regularly see family or friends on an off-day or after a day game. He still reps Atlanta and all he loves about it, like the Falcons, Hawks and rap music.

But he seems to be enjoying Chicago and playing for the Cubs. If he is bitter about how his free agency transpired, he didn’t show or make mention of it.

At the start of this series between the Braves and Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Braves had baseball’s best record. After a slow start, the Cubs were only two games out of a National League wild-card spot. They seem like a much-improved club that has played better baseball recently.

Is there any coincidence that Chicago has hung around later than expected after signing Swanson?

“He knows how to win,” Riley said. “It’s all he cares about is winning. So you know, I definitely think that probably has something to do with it. I’m not over there, but he doesn’t care if he has a good game or bad game. If they win, that’s all that matters to him. So I wouldn’t be shocked if that is somewhat of a factor over there.”

Winning, as Riley said, is paramount to Swanson. There are Braves fans who would ask this: If winning mattered most, why wouldn’t Swanson have re-signed with the Braves?

When the Cubs courted Swanson, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins laid out the organization’s plan to win. They made Swanson feel comfortable about their goals and how they might achieve them. (Not to mention, his wife, Mallory, plays professional soccer in Chicago.)

“Just honest conversation,” Swanson said. “It was something that my wife and I prayed a lot about, and then sitting down with (manager David Ross) and Jed and Carter and just having conversations with people about the Chicago Cubs and the direction of the organization, and just doing deep dives into players coming up, what salaries looked like moving forward and all this kind of stuff that just really led me, that I felt like this was a great opportunity.

“Just having prayed about it so much, I really felt led to be here. Who am I to argue with where God feels like he’s leading you? Once the clarity of that kind of came through, it just made (the decision) much simpler.”

When Swanson signed with the Cubs, the Braves officially had a vacancy at shortstop. They eventually filled it with Orlando Arcia, who was Swanson’s backup. The Braves lost one of their better players, but Arcia stepped in and ran with the job.

He started at shortstop in the All-Star game. He has excelled – both at the plate and in the field. He’s probably even exceeded the Braves’ expectations.

“I’ve always thought ‘O’ is such a good player,” Swanson said. “You just look at some of his track record: When ‘O’ gets going, he’s good, you know? And I think just at times, especially in his role the last couple of years there, didn’t necessarily have the opportunity. He was always such a good teammate and always so positive and energetic, which I’m sure hasn’t changed. It definitely is kind of one of those guys, you’re like, ‘It’s in there.’ This year it’s been coming out. I’m obviously happy for him.”

Like it did with Freddie Freeman a year ago, it felt weird to see Swanson opposite the Braves. He had spent his entire career with the Braves. He is as Atlanta as Atlanta gets.

Now he’s authoring another chapter in his story.

One Chicago reporter asked Swanson about if he ever wonders if the Braves miss him.

Swanson doesn’t have much time to think about that. He’s trying to push his new team toward October.

“They obviously have so many good players, and one would be silly to think that one player makes a difference over there,” he said. “There’s just so many good players and good people over there that want things to go well.”