The Cubs have looked to make a splash this winter, and it appears that Chicago has done just that. Per reports, the Cubs have reportedly agreed to a seven-year deal with former Atlanta Brave Dansby Swanson. The former World Series champion was the last of the big four shortstops off the board, as he heads to Chicago to join an upstart team on the rise.
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A Look at Swanson
A former college standout at Vanderbilt. Dansby Swanson has won at virtually every level he has played in throughout his career. Swanson won the NCAA College World Series at Vanderbilt in 2014, and then went on to be a key contributor for Atlanta’s World Series championship team in 2021.
The top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Swanson was traded from Arizona to Atlanta in a major deal that sent Shelby Miller to the desert. The move didn’t work out for the Diamondbacks, but it did for the Braves. Swanson made his MLB debut in 2016, and gave baseball fans a glimpse of what he was capable of at the highest stage. Swanson hit .302/.361/.442 across 38 games in 2016.
Swanson stuck at the MLB level after 2016, but didn’t produce much offense during the early portion of his career. From 2017-2019, Swanson hit just .240/.314/.380 with the Braves. Things, however, would pick up for Swanson after the 2019 season.
Over the past three seasons, the 28-year-old has been one of the game’s most prolific offensive threats at short. Swanson has hit 62 home runs over the past three seasons, with 25+ home run campaigns in both 2021 & 2022. That total is second-best among all shortstops, behind only Corey Seager of the Rangers. Swanson showed flashes of his ability to pound the baseball in 2019, as the former Vanderbilt star’s FB% and Hard Hit% rates were up significantly from 2018. But from 2020 onward, Swanson’s newfound approach to elevate the baseball proved to be successful.
Swanson doesn’t walk a whole lot, but the former Brave has shown good plate discipline in the past. Despite sporting below-average BB% rates, the shortstop one of the game’s better hitters in terms of limiting chases.
In addition to being a lethal threat at the plate, Swanson is also one of the game’s better defenders. Swanson’s 21 Outs Above Average was second best in all of baseball, behind only Jonathan Schoop. The new Cub possesses a ton of athleticism, which serves him well in the infield. Swanson’s terrific performance in the field netted him his first Gold Glove in 2022.
This winter, Chicago has looked for roster improvements after a 74-win campaign in 2022. The Cubs have already inked former NL MVP Cody Bellinger and Brad Boxberger to contracts, before the reported agreement with Dansby Swanson. Now, the new Cub will join an emerging team that has established names like Seiya Suzuki and Nico Hoerner, alongside some intriguing young ballplayers.
What it Means
The last marquee free agent is now off the board, albeit at a much smaller total than Swanson’s shortstop peers that also hit the market. Swanson’s seven-year, $177 million contact comes in less than the ones handed out to Xander Bogaerts ($280 million), Trea Turner ($300 million), and Carlos Correa ($350 million). While Swanson has been an elite offensive shortstop over the past three seasons — his 148 extra base hits from 2020-2022 is second-best among all shortstops behind Turner — in Atlanta, the former Brave has not exactly been an offensive superstar throughout his whole career. Swanson’s career OPS+ of just 95 is significantly less than the ones achieved by Bogaerts (117), Turner (122), and Correa (129).
If Swanson can produce similar numbers with Chicago, the 28-year-old can be a key building block for the Cubs. Chicago already has some interesting young pieces at or near the MLB level in Keegan Thompson, Christopher Morel, Miguel Amaya, and Ben Brown. In the farm, outfielders Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennan Davis, and Kevin Alcantara could be become regulars for the Cubs, alongside former first-round picks Cade Horton and Jordan Wicks.
Rumors were abound over the past few weeks that Chicago was in on the four major shortstops to boost the Cubs’ offense. After all, Chicago’s offense did rank in the bottom-half of baseball last season. The Cubs got one in Swanson, and now the team will look to build off of a rather solid 2022 campaign and speed up the rebuild. Chicago might not be ready to compete with St. Louis and Milwaukee, but this signing does move the team in the right direction.