CHICAGO -- This was an offseason the Cubs could not let go to waste -- not with the quality of star shortstops available on the free-agent market. After a round of monetary musical chairs, the North Siders reeled in one of the game's elite infielders in Dansby Swanson.
On Saturday, the Cubs reached an agreement with Swanson on a seven-year, $177 million contract that includes a full no-trade clause. The Cubs introduced their new shortstop in a press conference on Wednesday.
Once the ink dries, Swanson's deal will mark the second-largest in terms of total value in Cubs history, trailing only the $184 million Jason Heyward made over an eight-year contract. Swanson, Heyward and Alfonso Soriano (eight-year, $136 million) have the only deals in team history lasting seven or more years.
Swanson represented the last of the four big-ticket shortstops who hit free agency this offseason, along with Carlos Correa, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts. At various points this offseason, the Cubs were linked to all four players, but the marketplace erupted in extremely long, rich deals that forced Chicago to pivot to what became the most realistic option.
Turner was off the board first with an 11-year, $300 million contract with the reigning National League-champion Phillies. The Padres then pulled off a surprising deal with Bogaerts, nabbing him with an 11-year, $280 million deal. Carlos Correa initially had a deal with the Giants, but in a stunning turn of events, ended up agreeing to a deal with the Mets late Tuesday night into Wednesday.
Swanson was off on his honeymoon with Mallory Pugh -- who plays for the Chicago Red Stars professional soccer club -- when news of Correa's agreement with San Francisco broke earlier this week. It put Swanson in a great position to choose his destination, given his multiple suitors in the Cubs, Red Sox, Twins, Dodgers and others.
Swanson opted for a Cubs team that is attempting to pull out of a two-year rebuild and has an improving farm system that should start feeding the MLB roster soon enough. His deal also follows Chicago's recent signings of center fielder Cody Bellinger, pitcher Jameson Taillon (still not official) and reliever Brad Boxberger.
With the arrival of Swanson, Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner will be pushed to second base, where he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2020. Last year, Hoerner established himself as an elite defensive shortstop, ending with 13 outs above average, per Statcast. Only Swanson (21) had more en route to the National League's Gold Glove Award at short.
Hoerner was asked about the possibility of the Cubs bringing in a new shortstop last season.
“If they make moves that are going to help us win baseball games, that’s not going to be a huge issue around here,” Hoerner said in August. “Obviously, I believe in myself as a shortstop, and I’ve said that for a while, and people believe that now. But [my focus is just to] continue on. And if we have the issue of having too many good players, then I’ll like that problem."
Swanson grew up in Atlanta and was acquired by the Braves in December 2016, just six months after the D-backs had taken him with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. The 28-year-old veteran has served as Atlanta's starting shortstop since making his MLB debut on Aug. 17, 2016.
Swanson positioned himself for a hefty payday as he ranked second among all MLB shortstops with a 6.4 fWAR (FanGraphs' model) this year, trailing only the Mets’ Francisco Lindor (6.8). Swanson also ranked 11th among all MLB players with this mark.
As Swanson’s offensive game has improved over the past two years, he has established himself as one of the game’s top players. He hit a career-high 27 homers in 2021, and he ranked fourth among all shortstops with 25 homers this past season.
Swanson has produced a respectable .768 OPS over the past two seasons. But his glove remains his greatest asset, leading the NL with 21.4 defensive runs above average, per the FanGraph model this year. Lindor ranked second among all other shortstops with 16.1, while Hoerner (14.4) was fifth. While helping the Braves win five straight division crowns and the 2021 World Series title, he became the team’s leader. Rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom revealed the shortstop is known as “The Sheriff” within the Atlanta clubhouse.
Swanson has also proven to be durable while playing all but just two games over the past three seasons. He missed both of those two games in 2021. He was the only MLB player to start 162 games this past season.
"Anytime you have a great player who's a free agent, those guys are hard to sign because they earned it, right?" Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said at the General Managers Meetings in November.
"Gold Glove, everything else, the work he's put in, he's become an amazing player. And definitely, in my mind, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Really, the work that he's done is incredible."