SAN DIEGO — If Dansby Swanson and the Braves can’t come to a contract agreement this offseason, the team’s shortstop situation still would not be resolved. The Braves would face a major question.
Do they sign a shortstop or trade for one, or are they better off with Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia at the position?
Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos’ answer dictates his work over the remainder of the offseason.
“I think it’s just the opportunity cost, right?” he said when asked how to weigh those options. “If you’re making a trade, who’s going out the door? Weighing that against what your internal options are. And if you’re signing a player, what dollars are you committing currently and down the road?
“Hopefully you have alternatives. And that’s what you weigh. And you just ultimately try to make a decision that you feel makes the most sense short term, long term, and that’s the nature of every decision we make in these jobs.”
Let’s start with this: The Braves could re-sign Swanson, who is a terrific fit for their club. A reunion seemingly makes the most sense for both sides. On the record, Swanson has stated his desire to stay in Atlanta, and the Braves have publicly said they want to keep him.
In terms of the market’s top shortstops, Trea Turner went to Philadelphia and Xander Bogaerts is reportedly is signing with the Padres for $280 million over 11 years. It seemed Swanson would cost the least of any of the top four shortstops, so Bogaerts’ deal might be great news for Swanson.
And if the Braves aren’t willing to meet Swanson’s price and the sides don’t come to an agreement? Well, then the Braves likely will need a new shortstop.
They can go multiple directions to fill the need. There might not be one right answer because no one knows how the future will play out.
Internally, Grissom and Arcia provide an interesting combination. Perhaps the Braves give Grissom, who will turn 22 on Jan. 5, an opportunity to become the team’s shortstop of the future. In that case, Arcia, whom the Braves have praised, could serve as somewhat of a safety net if Grissom needs time to adjust and struggles.
Externally, Carlos Correa is still on the board. A fair question: If the Braves don’t feel comfortable matching Swanson’s price, would they pay even more for Correa?
Elvis Andrus and Jose Iglesias aren’t part of the big four shortstops on the market, but perhaps they could be options. If the Braves went that route, they would need to consider whether Andrus and Iglesias would be better than Arcia or Grissom. At that point, the Braves might be better off rolling with Grissom and Arcia and spending money to improve another part of their roster.
This offseason, a lot has been written about Brewers shortstop Willy Adames as a potential trade target for teams. There might not be a ton of trade options, simply because teams often don’t trade young, controllable shortstops.
The Braves have explored adding to every corner of the roster. They probably need an outfielder. They could use another reliever or two, and perhaps a starting pitcher. Their decision on the shortstop situation – if Swanson doesn’t return – could free resources to use elsewhere.
“With the resources we have, whether that’s trades, whether it’s dollars, how can we build the best version of the 2023 Braves?” Anthopoulos said. “What makes the most sense?”
The Braves, Anthopoulos said, understand they received tremendous production from the shortstop position. But they cannot expect that because it’s difficult for anyone to do that consistently. Anthopoulos used pitchers as an example: Just because a guy wins a Cy Young Award doesn’t mean a team can rely on him to take home another the next season.
The Braves know they can improve. “How” they will do it is the question.
“We can get better in the bullpen, we can get better in the rotation, we can get better from an offensive standpoint,” Anthopoulos said. “We literally can get better in all areas. It’s just finding the deal that makes the most sense and not being stuck on: It has to be in the bullpen or it needs to be in the rotation or it needs to be with a position player.”
Anthopoulos works quietly. But nothing at the winter meetings inspired much confidence that the Braves and Swanson are any closer to a deal.
If Swanson signs elsewhere, the Braves have their work cut out for them. They’ll face a decision.
The Braves have Grissom and Arcia. But Grissom hasn’t played a ton of games at the big-league level, and Arcia was Swanson’s backup. The Braves certainly could swing a trade or sign a free agent.
For years, the Braves have counted on Swanson to be their starting shortstop. Now his presence isn’t a certainty. And if he leaves, the Braves must know where to pivot.
They’ll have options. Their task is choosing the correct one.
Timing is important for the winter meetings
The annual winter meetings is known as an event that often sparks activity around the industry. This time, a quiet offseason turned into a wild one.
What changes with everyone under the same roof? After all, everyone uses phones nowadays. You can accomplish all of this from afar, right?
“I do think the timing is critically important, right?” Anthopoulos said. “There’s the general managers meetings, but they’re at the beginning of the offseason. The fact that we’re sitting here going into middle of December, (and) people, companies, offices are going to shut down for the holidays. And then from that point, you’re kicking it into the new year. I mean, for the most part, people would like to have clarity if they can before you get to the new year. If the winter meetings were in the middle of November, I don’t think it’d be the same thing.”
Braves select pitcher in minor-league phase of Rule 5 draft
The Rule 5 draft always takes place on the final day of the winter meetings.
The Braves didn’t lose anyone in either phase of the draft Wednesday.
In the minor-league portion, the Braves selected right-hander Domingo Gonzalez from the Pirates organization. He ended last season at Double-A, but spent most of it at high Single-A.
At High-A, Gonzalez had a 4.96 ERA over 101-2/3 innings. He struck out 99 batters over that span.