“He just keeps putting it all together,” manager Brian Snitker said. “The defense is off the charts. The awareness, the leadership he’s developed, how he’s come on as a hitter. He’s worked really, really hard the last few years figuring out who he is as a hitter. You look up there the last couple years, those are really good offensive numbers for a shortstop. Then the plays he makes, the athleticism, the awareness. To me, it’s off the charts. This guy is a winning player.”
Perhaps Swanson wants to print that quote and place it on President of Baseball Operations Alex Anthopoulos’ desk. Every conversation about the 28-year old this season comes with the free-agency caveat. Snitker laid out why Swanson is an invaluable part of the defending champs, on and off the field, and he continues making a strong case he’s worth a long-term commitment.
It’s been a beauty of a contract year for Swanson. He’s hitting .277/.328/.444 with 31 doubles, 24 homers and 95 RBIs, earning his first All-Star nod. He’s played his usual superb defense. He’s even played in every game after experiencing injury issues earlier in his career. In fact, Swanson has become an iron man. Dating back to the truncated 2020 season, he’s played in 378 of 380 possible games.
Swanson even exudes Atlanta. He’s a proud member of the community to the point he referenced winning the World Series in Houston as perhaps exorcizing the Falcons’ demons (They squandered Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium). Despite being Atlanta through and through, there’s uncertainty with Swanson’s free agency, especially after his friend Freeman – also represented by Excel Sports Management – had a messy breakup with the franchise as a free agent.
Players handle expiring contracts differently, but Swanson has seemed totally unaffected, even as the prospect of him departing his hometown team is a mere month away. If anything, maybe it’s helped his performance.
“It’s not that difficult (to compartmentalize it) because at the end of the day, my passion is competing and winning,” Swanson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Saturday’s game. “When that’s the intention and focus, and when you trust in the good Lord to do what he’s supposed to do, it’s like that old saying – work like it depends on me and pray like it depends on God. So just go out here and play and win and I’ll land wherever He is wanting to put me. There’s some peace that comes with that. And when there is peace like that, you can just go and freely perform and be yourself.”
When The AJC asked more about Swanson’s inner peace, he admitted he has indeed thought about his contractual status. That’s no surprise being that A) he’s human and B) his representatives and the Braves have held conversations. But Swanson has also worked diligently to prioritize the present. He’s doing a nice job there according to his manager Brian Snitker, who said Swanson “is very comfortable in his skin. He’s very confident in himself. He’s handled everything probably as well as I thought he would.”
Swanson explained how:
“I feel like as humans, it’s hard to not – I’d be sitting here lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,” he told The AJC. “But at the same time, that’s where the peace part comes in. You just put it behind you, put it onto the backburner. My teammates need me. I need my teammates. And if I’m not fully present here for them, then I’m doing them a disservice and I’m doing this organization a disservice. And really, even doing myself a disservice.
“I’ve put a lot of work into myself mentally and spiritually. Thank goodness that I have Mallory (his fiancée) in my life because she helps keep me grounded and focused on the right things. It’s just such a blessing to have people in my life to help me stay that course and that I was raised like that to think like that.”
The mindset is working. Swanson will have the chance to uplift his team again this October. In doing so, he’d only strengthen his case that the Braves should ante up to keep their All-Star home.