One year after Freddie Freeman up and left the Braves, Dansby Swanson can up and leave. (Let’s get this out of the way: Swanson, like Freeman, is represented by Excel Sports Management.) This isn’t to say Swanson will, but he might. As a public service, we offer talking points for your Thanksgiving convocations.
1. Swanson is an All-Star shortstop. He isn’t a perennial All-Star. He hasn’t been named MVP. He isn’t on a Cooperstown track. Freeman was, and is, all of those. Swanson is a good player coming off his best year. His WAR for 2022 was 5.7; his total WAR for his previous six seasons was 8.8.
2. Swanson isn’t the best shortstop available. Carlos Correa, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts are better players of a similar age. (Swanson will turn 29 in February.)
3. Swanson just won his first Gold Glove. That’s a great thing. Teams tend not to pay big for defense, though, the belief being that all defenders – not just Swanson – decline with age.
4. Swanson’s batting average on balls in play last season was .349, ninth-best among qualifying hitters. The MLB average was .296. His strikeout percentage was 26.2, second-highest of his career, 16th-highest among big-league hitters. His OPS was .776. Bogaerts, Correa and Turner were above .800.
5. Swanson is said to have assumed Freeman’s role as clubhouse leader. The Braves improved by 13 wins after Freeman became a Dodger. Does that mean Swanson, leadership-wise, was that much better than Freeman? Does that mean leadership is overrated?
6. Swanson is rated the fifth-best free agent by MLB Trade Rumors, trailing Aaron Judge and the other shortstops. That puts Swanson two spots ahead of Jacob deGrom, FYI.
7. Swanson is predicted by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a seven-year contract at $154 million. That’s an annual average value of $22 million. Of MLBTR’s four analysts, three pick him to sign with the Cubs; one believes he’ll sign with the Twins.
8. Swanson, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, didn’t budge when the Braves offered $100M during the season. Can’t blame him for that. He has been in the majors since 2016. If you’re that close to free agency, you owe it to yourself to see what the market will bear.
9. Swanson doubtless noticed that Liberty Media, never the chattiest of conglomerates, announced Thursday its intent to split the Braves from The Battery Atlanta into their own tracking stock “to better highlight (the team’s) strong value.” Should that rising tide lift all boats, the shortstop’s included?
10. Swanson is among the more popular Braves. He might be the most popular Brave. Which doesn’t mean he’s worth $154M, but it means something. Do this club want to become known as the place that lets all its favorites leave?
11. Swanson is from Marietta. The Braves play in Cobb County. Zack Wheeler was born in Smyrna. That didn’t impel the Braves to sign him as a free agent three years ago.
12. Swanson plays the most important defensive position. The Braves know they can really hit, but they’d like to think they can catch, too. (Unlike, say, the Phillies.) He’s a Gold Glover who batted No. 2 in 102 of 162 games. His absence would leave two holes.
13. Swanson’s obvious replacement might be too obvious. Vaughn Grissom is a fine hitter who may or may not be a big-league shortstop. He’s also seven years younger than Swanson. He also won’t be seeking a nine-figure contract anytime soon.
14. Swanson is, in a way, a tougher call than Freeman. He was drafted No. 1 overall by Arizona in 2015. Six months later, he was traded to the Braves for Shelby Miller, who has since worked a total of 65 games for five different clubs. Swanson’s promotion to the majors in 2016 dovetailed with the Braves’ move to Cobb County. Back then, he wasn’t quite a fit as the new face of this franchise. He kind of is now.
15. Swanson will – it says here – re-up with the Braves for $110M over five seasons. That’s still an AAV of $22M, which would top those of Austin Riley and Matt Olson. A team of strong value should make a strong commitment to its stylish shortstop, don’t you think?