The Braves have opened extension talks with Dansby Swanson, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. At this point, there’s nothing to indicate that talks have moved beyond the initial stages, though Heyman adds that there is “less whispered negativity” with these discussions than there was with Freddie Freeman a year ago. Swanson is represented by Excel Sports Management, who also represented Freeman until he reportedly dismissed them in June.
How far the talks with Swanson have progressed isn’t clear, though it’s noteworthy that they have begun, with Swanson just a few months away from reaching free agency. The Braves have been the most aggressive team in baseball when it comes to locking up their star players. All of Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Austin Riley and Michael Harris II have agreed to lengthy pacts in recent years, with those latter two just coming in the past month.
However, Swanson’s case is a bit different than those other players, as none of them were on the verge of reaching the open market. The 28-year-old is just a few months away from having multiple teams bidding for his services, which likely means it will take a significant payout to prevent him from taking that opportunity. Furthermore, the timing of his free agency could hardly be any better from his perspective, since he’s having easily the best season of his career.
Swanson has hit .292/.348/.455 this season, coming into tonight’s action. That offensive production is 22% better than league average, as evidenced by his 122 wRC+. Outside of a cup of coffee in his debut season and a strong showing in the shortened 2020 campaign, his previous high in that department was the 98 wRC+ he registered last year. He’s also added 15 steals already, eclipsing his previous personal best of 10.
He seems to have taken steps forward on the defensive side of things as well, depending on which defensive metric you trust the most. Outs Above Average is the most bullish, giving Swanson 14 on the year already, doubling his previous personal best, which was a seven back in 2018. Runs Above Average is also impressed, having never given him better than five but setting him at 10 so far this season. Defensive Runs Saved also likes his work, valuing him at six so far, on pace to get near his previous high of nine. Ultimate Zone Rating appears to be the outlier here, rating Swanson’s glove work at -0.7 after having him at 1.1 last season.
All told, FanGraphs calculates Swanson to have been worth 5.1 wins above replacement so far this year, easily eclipsing his personal record, the 3.4 he accrued last year. That total is also good enough for Swanson to be seventh in the majors among position players.
If an extension were not reached, Swanson would surely find no shortage of interest in his services based on this excellent platform he’s putting together. This coming offseason figures to feature another strong class of shortstops, with Swanson likely to be joined by Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Trea Turner at the top of it. In the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, all four shortstops cracked the list, with Swanson taking the seventh slot.
Whether the Braves can tempt Swanson from forgoing that opportunity remains to be seen. The aforementioned Freddie Freeman was in a similar position at this point last year, with many around the industry assuming the two sides would reunite. That didn’t end up happening, with the Braves instead acquiring Matt Olson to play first base and Freeman joining the Dodgers. If the Swanson situation were to go a different route and he did end up agreeing to stay, Atlanta could pencil him into the infield next to Olson, Riley and Albies for years to come.