The Top 10 Landing Spots for Atlanta's Dansby Swanson in MLB Free Agency
Last year's star-studded free-agent shortstop class is followed by another one, possibly even better than the previous.
This one includes four of the top-10 players in fWAR among shortstops, including Dansby Swanson, who ranked second (6.4).
Swanson is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, ranking second in defensive runs above average. Atlanta is the favorite to re-sign Swanson, a hometown product who helped win a World Series there in 2021.
But there are plenty of suitors for Swanson, who could be a priority for some teams and a backup plan for others prioritizing the likes of Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts.
Let's take a look at the top 10 landing spots for Swanson, considering team needs, willingness to spend and reported interest linking him to different squads.
The Marlins are among the teams in need of an improvement at shortstop after being in baseball's bottom third in key offensive categories.
They were 24th in wRC+ and 26th in both OPS and wOBA from the shortstop position last season, according to FanGraphs.
Signing the player who finished second among shortstops in WAR—only behind Francisco Lindor—sixth in wOBA and seventh in wRC+ would be an obvious upgrade for Miami.
It was a bit surprising to see MLB.com's Mark Feinsand include the Marlins as a potential suitor for Swanson. But Feinsand noted Miguel Rojas, who played the vast majority of shortstop for Miami last year, only has one year and $5 million left on his contract.
Competition in the NL East, with two 100+ win teams and another who just went to the World Series, is not getting easier. The Marlins need more moves like this to compete.
St. Louis Cardinals
While Tommy Edman had a breakout season for the Cardinals at shortstop, they would likely prefer to move him back to his natural position at second base. They could upgrade at shortstop with Swanson and pair him with Edman for possibly the best defensive middle infield in baseball.
Considering their corner infielders are Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, it might be the best infield in baseball, period.
Last offseason, the Cardinals sat out a loaded free-agent shortstop class with the expectation Paul DeJong would bounce back from a disappointing 2021. Instead, he recorded the worst season of his career (.530 OPS).
In September, MLB insider Jon Heyman of the New York Post mentioned the Cardinals as among the teams in pursuit of a big free-agent shortstop.
There has been little to no chatter about Swanson to the Cardinals, beyond the obvious fit. But the potential alone, especially given the Cardinals' World Series aspirations, is worth consideration.
It's also worth noting the largest free agent contract St. Louis ever gave was to Matt Holiday for seven years, $120 million in 2010. Swanson projects to make in the six-year, $150 million range.
An underrated prediction from The Athletic's Jim Bowden was Swanson signing with the Mariners and moving to second base, leaving J.P. Crawford at shortstop.
Under this prediction, Swanson would sign a six-year, $154 million deal to join the up-and-coming Mariners. Adam Frazier, who was Seattle's second baseman last season, is now a free agent.
Swanson replacing him would be an incredible upgrade, adding both power to the lineup and shortstop skills to second base.
It's another scenario that could create one of the better defensive middle infields in baseball.
The odds of Swanson signing with Seattle to move to second base seem long, but it would make sense if this turns out to be his best offer.
Los Angeles Angels
As uninspiring as the Marlins were at shortstop last season, the Angels were even worse. Their shortstops ranked 29th in wRC+ and 27th in WAR.
The need to upgrade at that position is clear.
Angels general manager Perry Minasian has been busy, signing former Dodgers pitcher Tyler Anderson and trading for third baseman Gio Urshela and outfielder Hunter Renfroe.
Shortstop is also on their offseason agenda, according to The Athletic's Jim Bowden, who is a former MLB team executive.
Both Swanson and Trea Turner are considered free-agent targets for the Angels, per Bowden.
Signing Swanson, along with these other early offseason moves, would show the Angels are still trying to field a decent team despite their recent shortcomings and pending sale.
This is also their final season to make an impression on Shohei Ohtani before he could hit free agency in 2024.
Shortstop is a priority for the Phillies this offseason, and Swanson might be their best bargain.
The others from this star-studded free-agent shortstop class are more closely linked to Philly, like Bryce Harper's former teammate Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts—who Phillies executive Dave Dombrowski knows well from the Boston Red Sox—and Carlos Correa.
But even if Swanson is the fourth option, it's a pretty good one for both sides. The Phillies already have five players making at least $20 million next season. Swanson would be the sixth, but he fills a need for Philadelphia.
His defense is as good as you will find, leading all shortstops in defensive runs above average last season.
The Phillies as a team ranked 25th in defensive runs saved. Their shortstop position ranked 26th.
Signing him would also take him away from a division rival threatening the Phillies' path to a World Series.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants have their sights on Aaron Judge and either re-signing or replacing Carlos Rodon. They also really want one of these talented free-agent shortstops.
Swanson's defense is going to appeal to the Giants, whose shortstops ranked 22nd in defensive runs saved last season.
They could move Brandon Crawford, who turns 36 in January, to second base and slot Swanson at shortstop rather seamlessly.
This is the kind of offseason the Giants want to have, where they make the big splashes—more than one.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters in November that no player is outside of the Giants' capability of acquiring.
That includes Swanson, who at age 29 would help San Francisco get younger and more athletic.
Boston Red Sox
With the report from longtime MLB writer Peter Gammons indicating Xander Bogaerts has severed ties with the Red Sox, it's time to start seriously considering who his replacement could be.
It's disappointing enough for Red Sox fans to see Bogaerts go, but it would be even worse if the team doesn't capitalize on the talented free-agent shortstops available in response to his departure.
Swanson could be that player. He's shown consistency at the plate the past three seasons with production comparable to Bogaerts.
Last season, Swanson hit 25 home runs to Bogaerts' 15. His 6.4 fWAR ranked second among shortstops, per FanGraphs, ahead of Bogaerts' 6.1, which ranked fourth.
If the Red Sox are unable to reach an agreement on a proper raise for Bogaerts, it could signal they prefer the cheapest option among the star free-agent shortstops, which figures to be Swanson.
The Cubs have deep pockets, high ambitions and a particular eye on shortstop.
Earlier this week, ESPN's Jesse Rogers was on MLB Network saying they are involved in all tiers of the free-agent market, including the top end of shortstops featuring Dansby Swanson and Trea Turner.
MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the Cubs were among the most active teams in the shortstop market in the early days of free agency, in touch with agents for all of the top four players, including Swanson.
Morosi said that he would be "very surprised if the Cubs do not add one of the big four superstar shortstops."
Morosi noted Swanson's connections to the Cubs and city of Chicago. Cubs general manager Carter Hawkins is a fellow Vanderbilt alum, and his wife Mallory Pugh plays for the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women's Soccer League.
The Cubs are in an interesting spot. They don't have an established winner to sell to a free agent, but what they can do is write a big check to entice a player.
For the last couple of years, the baseball world has been waiting on the Cubs to start spending money again.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Swanson has been characterized as a backup option for the Dodgers if they are unable to bring back Trea Turner and Carlos Correa's role with the 2017 Houston Astros is too sore of a wound to open.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, "Dodgers people love Carlos Correa as a player" but there is reluctance about his link to the sign-stealing scandal, which some believe robbed the Dodgers of the 2017 World Series.
That would truly be a silly reason not to pursue him, but that doesn't make it any less real of a concern.
As disappointing as it would be to lose Max Scherzer and Turner in back-to-back seasons after trading for them ahead of the 2021 deadline, Swanson is a nice backup plan.
The Dodgers are used to elite shortstop play after Corey Seager and Turner, so they should want to maintain that standard.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos has already publicly acknowledged Swanson's importance to the team, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
That's not the type of player they want to let go, especially a year after watching franchise icon Freddie Freeman go to the Los Angeles Dodgers in what may have been a mix-up.
Extension talks between Atlanta and Swanson opened in mid-August, so there has at least been some dialogue. This is not like Xander Bogaerts, who has reportedly "severed" ties with the Boston Red Sox.
Swanson grew up just outside of Atlanta in Kennesaw, Georgia, where he was a childhood Braves fan who attended games at Turner Field as a kid.
As an adult, he hit a pair of home runs and secured the final out of the World Series for his hometown team.