There’s roughly a week until impending free agents are permitted to speak with other teams. Clubs have an exclusive negotiating window with their free agents for five days after the World Series wraps up.
An extension for any notable free agent this close to the offseason would register as a major surprise, but teams figure to keep in contact with their top players. The Braves and All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson have talked potential contracts since at least mid-August. Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote last month the sides had exchanged formal proposals, and Jon Heyman of the New York Post now sheds a bit more light on discussions. According to Heyman, the Braves made an offer in the $100MM range at some point during the season.
Precisely when the Braves made the proposal is unknown, but it’s now clear Swanson is in strong position to beat roughly $100MM on his next deal. He’s headed to free agency on the heels of a career year. The former first overall pick has always been a strong defensive shortstop, but he was arguably the game’s top defensive infielder in 2022. That earned him his first career Gold Glove a few months after his first trip to the Midsummer Classic. Swanson also had one of his top offensive showings, connecting on 25 home runs and posting a .277/.329/.447 line while playing in every one of Atlanta’s games.
Swanson’s production tailed off a bit in the second half, but his overall line checked in 16 points above league average by measure of wRC+. That’s right in line with the platform-year showing for Javier Báez and better than that of Trevor Storyeach of whom were free agents in a loaded shortstop class last offseason. Both Báez and Story were going into their age-29 seasons, as Swanson is now. They each landed $140MM guarantees on the open market, and both players locked in opt-out clauses into their deals (although the Red Sox can override Story’s opt-out by triggering a club option for a 7th season). Swanson’s representatives at Excel Sports Management are surely well-aware of those recent precedents, and it stands to reason they could look to beat the $140MM mark.
Each of Swanson and Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has gone on record about a mutual desire to keep the shortstop in Atlanta. Swanson is a Georgia native who’s never played for another team at the big league level, and it stands to reason he’d be happy to stick around. Whether he’d take some kind of discount to do so isn’t known, although that he apparently turned down an offer in the realm of nine figures suggests he’s not completely averse to testing the market.
The Braves are a year removed from a high-profile stalemate with former franchise icon Freddie Freeman. Those talks reportedly hit a stumbling block over the Braves’ reluctance to go six guaranteed years, and Freeman eventually signed with the Dodgers after Atlanta pivoted to land and extend Matt Olson. Freeman was also an Excel Sports Management client at the time, but Swanson has consistently maintained that back-and-forth would have no bearing on his relationship with the Braves or his agency.
Obviously, that Swanson declined an extension offer isn’t a guarantee he’ll depart. Heyman reports that proposal was made at some point during the season, and Anthopoulos confirmed after their season wrapped up the team still had interest in a long-term deal. It stands to reason they’ve remained in contact and will continue to do so throughout the offseason. The Braves are sure to extend Swanson a qualifying offer next week, which he’ll reject in search of a much longer and loftier commitment.