Who are Braves' SS options this offseason?

November 11th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. But despite what happened to Freddie Freeman last year, I’m still thinking free agent Dansby Swanson ends up staying with the Braves.

Swanson and the Braves haven’t discussed numbers since the shortstop turned down a deal that had an average annual value (AAV) that was further from the $20 million mark than he desired. A few months have since passed without any substantive conversations.

So we’re back to where we were last year, when we were wondering why Freeman hadn’t been signed yet. But this one feels different, primarily because the Braves don’t have the potential fallback options that the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Matt Olson provided last year.

If the Braves didn’t re-sign Freeman, they knew they could attempt to trade for Olson or sign Rizzo. If they don’t re-sign Swanson, the options aren’t as comfortable. Here is a look at some of the other shortstop options:

Would the Braves sign Trea Turner? This guy is great. I mean, he hurt the Braves so much with the Nationals that we used to refer to Ted’s place as Turner's Field. But I just don’t see the Braves giving $30 million a year to a 29-year-old guy whose legs account for much of his value.

Would the Braves sign Carlos Correa? Correa just opted out of a contract that would have paid him $70.2 million over the next two years. Touting he doesn’t come with the baggage of a qualifying offer is like trying to sell me a Lamborghini by offering a free key ring.

Would the Braves sign Xander Bogaerts? Bogaerts will be more affordable than the previous two free agents and he would certainly strengthen the Braves’ lineup. The 30-year-old shortstop also eased defensive concerns by producing a career-best season in the field this year.

But like with each of the other free-agent shortstops, there’s uncertainty about how much defensive value they might contribute as they progress through their 30s without the defensive shift.

With both Bogaerts and Turner receiving qualifying offers, the Braves would be taxed if they choose to sign either of them. They would lose their second-highest selection in the 2023 MLB Draft, as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period.

Is this what the Braves want as they escape from their international sanctions and attempt to restock their farm system by making moves like trading Drew Waters to the Royals for a Draft pick? Maybe. But it’s something to think about.

Would the Braves trade for a shortstop? It’s certainly a possibility, especially if the arbitration-heavy Brewers make Willy Adames available. But the Braves don’t have the prospect capital they did over the past few years. Their top attractive trade pieces might be AJ Smith-Shawver, Owen Murphy and JR Ritchie, a trio of pitchers taken out of high school within the past two MLB Drafts. Vaughn Grissom would garner some value on the trade market, but he also could aid Atlanta as talented utility man for many years to come.

Would the Braves re-sign Swanson? As stated above, I do believe this will happen. But it’s going to take some time because it seems like the Braves are willing to allow Swanson to get a feel for his market value. We might have to wait for Turner and Correa to get their big deals before getting a sense of what Swanson and Bogaerts could get.

My expectation is the Braves will not make the highest offer to Swanson. But that won’t necessarily matter. In hindsight, Freeman would have taken less to remain in Atlanta. But he didn’t keep himself in control of his negotiations like Swanson will while working with Excel Sports, the agency Freeman fired this past summer.

My guess is Swanson ends up back with the Braves on a six-year, $123 million deal. Like Chipper Jones did multiple times, Swanson will leave some money on the table to secure himself the satisfaction of remaining where he wants to be. And he’ll do so with about $5 million more per year than I’d have anticipated at the start of this year.