Dansby Swanson is signing for $177M over seven seasons, an average annual value of $25.3M. Had you told me a month ago those would be his final numbers, I’d have said, “No way he’s getting that here.” And he isn’t.

He’s joining the Chicago Cubs, who were 114-179 over the past two seasons and are in the throes of the sort of rebuild Swanson experienced as a Brave. They’ll be paying him $25.3M when he’s 35. Swanson has made the All-Star team once. He has won one Gold Glove. His career WAR is 14.5. Ozzie Albies, who’s three years younger, has a career WAR of 15.3.

ExploreDansby Swanson agrees to seven-year contract with Cubs

Swanson is a good player who plays an important position well. He’s not irreplaceable. Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers for $162M over six seasons, an AAV of $27M. Freeman was a five-time All-Star and the 2020 National League MVP. His career WAR was 43.1. He fit the definition of a franchise player, and the Braves won 101 games without him. They can win without Swanson, too.

Swanson was considered the least of the four available shortstops. His contract reflects that. Trea Turner signed with the Philadelphia for $300M over 11 seasons. Xander Bogaerts signed with San Diego for $280M over 11 seasons. Carlos Correa signed with San Francisco for $350M over 13 seasons. When’s the last time you saw a 41-year-old shortstop? When’s the last time you saw a 41-year-old shortstop worth $26.M?

 

The Braves don’t mind paying someone $20M per annum. That’s what Charlie Morton will make next season at age 39. Matt Olson signed for eight seasons at $168M, the next seven of which will see him top $20M. Austin Riley signed for $212M over 10 years; he’ll make $20-plus million over the final eight. But none of the above will have a season, at any age, in which he’ll earn what Swanson will average.

The Braves’ final offer to Swanson is believed to have been $100M over six years. He almost doubled that by signing elsewhere, and good for him. That’s why players wait with breath barely bated to become free agents. It’s their chance to get paid. Give Swanson credit: He timed his career year nicely.

That said, his career year saw him strike out 182 times, third-most among National Leaguers, and post an OPS of .776, 53rd-best among qualifying NLers. The Braves wanted to keep Swanson, but they have too many better players – Riley, Albies, Ronald Acuna, Max Fried, maybe Michael Harris – to keep him at any price.

ExploreReaction to Dansby Swanson leaving the Braves

If you’re a fan, you’re disappointed. This marks the second consecutive offseason the most popular Brave has opted to hit the road. At such times, it’s easy to brand the Braves as pinchers of pennies, as tin-eared when it comes to the wishes of their constituents. But this organization is in it for the long haul. The Braves didn’t fall apart when Freeman split for L.A.; they won’t collapse with Swanson in Wrigleyville.

They can give Vaughn Grissom, yet another hot young prospect, a try at short. They can trade for, say, Willy Adames of Milwaukee, who’s younger than Swanson and has a higher career WAR. Whatever it takes, they’ll do it. The trade for catcher Sean Murphy reminded us again: Alex Anthopoulos is relentless.

When this GM had a bullpen to fix at the 2019 trade deadline, he imported Chris Martin and Mark Melancon and Shane Greene. When it was his first baseman who wouldn’t re-up, Anthopoulos landed Olson and extended his contract before Freeman was introduced as a Dodger. There’s a reason the teams with AA as their GM have finished first six years running.

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No, it’s not a happy moment. Swanson’s a nice guy with great hair. He loved playing in his hometown. But he won’t hate the millions he’ll be paid, and let’s not forget: He could have signed with any team; he picked the Cubs.

But life goes on. There’s always another season. The Braves will find a competent shortstop. They’ll win the East yet again. They’re Alex Anthopoulos’ team. It’s what they do.