Dansby Swanson was a homegrown star for the Braves. It can be paid elsewhere

2015, Dansby Swanson introduced himself to the big leagues as the #1 draft pick with high marks in his glove work and ability to hit line drives. As it turned out, it would take Swanson seven years to record a breakout all-star season and become one of the best shortstops in the game.

Swanson is now exploring free reign at 28 and has developed into the consistent and experienced athlete we’ve been waiting for. The question is, does Swanson’s increased value bring him into the franchise shortstops conversation?

That Atlanta Braves have considered this question thoroughly and it appears increasingly that the organization’s response is that Swanson could become their franchise shortstop, but he’s not there yet. As such, the Braves would be willing to keep Swanson at the right price, but maybe not for highest Price. Swanson’s free hand could depend on how much money he’s willing to give up to stay in Atlanta.

Swanson, a Kennesaw, Georgia native who rose through the ranks at Atlanta and spent seven seasons playing for his childhood favorite team, is taking other offers. The timing of Swanson’s free agency means he’s not at the top of the list of competing teams. But the best season of his career that Swanson has just put together means he would still be a welcome addition to one of several teams looking to fill a hole at shortstop this winter. And one of those multiple teams will pay more than $100 million to win it.

Swanson entered the free hand this offseason, in a class abounding with elite shortstops, including Trea Turner, Carlo Correa and Xander Bogaerts. Swanson is expected to land the most moderate long-term deal among those shortstops in this year’s free-agency group, with industry experts suggesting his successful 2022 season will require anywhere from $20 million to $25 million or more over five or six years.

The Braves and other frontrunners certainly appreciate Swanson’s defense; His 21 above-average outs last season were the most by any MLB shortstop, resulting in his first Gold Glove Award of his career that year. His 6.4 fWAR just lagged behind Francisco Lindor (6.8 fWAR) among Major League shortstops.

“He’s become a great player,” said Alex Anthopoulos, Braves’ president of baseball operations, at this month’s GM meetings. “With the work he’s done, he’s arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game.”

On the other side of the ball, Swanson’s strikeout rate of 26.1% was the third-highest of any shortstop – even higher than the infamous swinger Javier Baez, which had the fourth-highest strikeout rate at 24.9%. And though Swanson just had 25 straight home run seasons, his .776 OPS last season isn’t as compelling as those of Correa (.834), Bogaerts (.833) and Turner (.809). While there’s no denying that Swanson isn’t in the same class offensively as Correa, Bogaerts and Turner, Swanson’s 116 wRC+ indicates he was still 16% better at plate than the average MLB hitter.

In a vacuum, Swanson’s still-repetitive offense suggests the Braves can find a better slugger this offseason through freehand by running it and aiming for one of these top three shortstops instead. Correa’s signing would be the most spectacular move while Turner, who was reportedly keen to leave, would be signed The angel in favor of an East Coast team, would also make sense for the Braves. But now Atlanta is looking internally.

Those hoping for a reunion between Swanson and Braves received unfavorable news last week The athletics reported that Atlanta has already started preparing its outstanding rookie, Vaughn Grissomto switch to the starting position of the team.

Grissom, who primarily played shortstop in the minors but was called up to play second base, posted 121 OPS+ in 41 games for the Braves after his promotion to the big leagues in mid-August. This winter, Grissom is training in New Orleans under the supervision of Brave’s third base coach, Ron Washington, who is considered one of the best infield coaches in the game. And Washington, the report said, recently told Anthopolous he could get Grissom to play full-time shortstop until spring training.

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“I don’t think Swanson is replaceable unless they get a superstar,” Washington told The Athletic. “But we can handle the position. We have (Orlando) Arkia, and we have Grissom – this boy is getting better and better every day. I’m telling you, he’s improving tremendously.”

Swanson’s strength lies in his aforementioned defense, but also in his stamina.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound shortstop’s 362 games played is the most in MLB since early 2020. He led the league in his 2022 All-Star season by playing all 162 games. He finished 12th in this year’s National League MVP contest, receiving 23 votes overall. Unlike Correa and his involvement in the Astros sign-theft scandal, Swanson has no luggage. At 28, he’s a few months older than Correa but younger than Turner and Bogaerts and is certainly playing in his prime. Swanson’s ability to post, make big plays, and hit big hits helped lead the Braves to their 2021 championship, and he would immediately become a staple of every other top contender’s roster.

That dodgerswith old teammate Freddie Freeman The first base cast would be a good fit for Swanson should Turner leave Hollywood. Other teams that need a shortstop or already have one that could leave and would pay for Swanson include the Boys, Red Sox, tiger, Angeland Phillies – and that’s just a handful of a larger group of prospects.

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From today’s perspective, it increasingly seems like Swanson’s offense will never justify his rank as a former first overall draft pick — especially when you consider it Alex Bregman was selected runner-up overall in this 2015 draft class. But Swanson always seemed destined for fame. His 2022 season has shown his defense to be more than bearable; it is remarkable. His overall makeup includes being dependable on the field and uncontroversial off the field.

Swanson’s first experience in free agency will apparently result in teams offering more money than the Braves are willing to spend on their seven-year shortstop. What he does next will determine whether he becomes a franchise shortstop for the team he grew up with or whether he seeks to fill that role elsewhere. But one thing is clear: the Braves let Swanson be charmed by better offers. And he could take on another team.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @Deesha Thosar.

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