Swanson expects to win with Cubs: 'That's why I came'

February 16th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- One of the first tasks on Dansby Swanson's to-do list after signing with the Cubs was to obtain a list of his teammates' phone numbers from the ballclub. The shortstop wanted to reach out and begin the process of building rapport and camaraderie.

"It's a long list, I'll tell you," Swanson said with a laugh on Wednesday morning.

On the first official day of Spring Training for pitchers and catchers, Swanson was one in a long list of position players already on hand at the Cubs' complex. His arrival via his seven-year, $177 million deal does not just bring in a new shortstop, but also a heightened sense of expectations after two years of rebuilding.

The conversations that began over texts and calls in December and January will continue over the next six weeks. Swanson believes the relationships built behind the scenes will have a natural boost to the production on the field, and he does not plan on entering the season viewing this as a transition year.

"Good teams hang out together," Swanson said. "And I feel like this is a group that can embody that. This is a year that we really feel that, not only is there an expectation to just come out here and play well, but to win. And I think when you start to make everything about that, then good things follow."

The Cubs addressed clear needs with their free-agent signings, but the team also added a collection of World Series rings to the clubhouse in the process. Swanson won with Atlanta in 2021, while Cody Bellinger (2020 Dodgers), Trey Mancini (2022 Astros) and Eric Hosmer (2015 Royals) also have titles.

The Cubs also have players with World Series experience in Kyle Hendricks (the lone holdover from the '16 Cubs), Drew Smyly (2012 Tigers and '21 Braves) and Yan Gomes ('16 Indians and '19 Nationals). Marcus Stroman, plus newcomers Jameson Taillon, Brad Boxberger and Tucker Barnhart have been in the playoffs.

"When you bring in guys of that stature, that nature," Stroman said, "it automatically just snowball effects as far as mentality, as their involvement and how they motivate inspires other guys around."

After being a part of an Atlanta squad that grew into a champion over the first phase of his career, Swanson hopes to replicate that type of success with the Cubs. And he does not want the message to be that the expectations of contending are still a year or two away.

"There's no other reason to play this game other than to win," Swanson said. "That's why I came. It was to be a part of something bigger than myself. It was to be a part of a team that could bring a fourth World Series for this great organization."

Last year in his age-28 season, Swanson played 162 games, made the National League All-Star team, picked up a Gold Glove Award at shortstop and earned some down-ballot MVP votes. Over the '21-22 seasons combined, he averaged 26 homers, 32 doubles, 92 RBIs, 88 runs and 14 steals with a .768 OPS.

Bringing in Swanson forced Nico Hoerner -- the Cubs' starting shortstop last season -- to move to second base. That, in turn, has set up Chicago to boast one of the best defensive middle-infield duos in baseball. That brought a wide smile to Stroman, who relies heavily on contact with his sinker.

"That sanker's gonna be sankin' this year," Stroman quipped. "Yeah, Dansby and Nico, man. I mean, obviously I'm biased, but I don't see a better shortstop, second base -- range, capability-wise -- I don't see a better one in the big leagues."

Between Hoerner's willingness to move positions in the name of winning and Swanson's reputation for leadership skills, they have already had an impact on the Cubs' younger players. Earlier this week, top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong said Swanson and Hoerner embody how "Cubbie baseball" should look.

"If you were to ask, like, what kind of style baseball do the Cubs play?" Crow-Armstrong said. "You'd say, 'Go watch our shortstop and second baseman.' I think it's as simple as that."

This spring, the spotlight will certainly remain on Swanson, as he adjusts to his new clubhouse, builds an on-field bond with Hoerner and tries to solidify the belief with his teammates that the coming season will be more than just a small step forward.

"I'm excited just for what's already in place," Swanson said. "But there's plenty of work to be done. And I think that's probably the most exciting part."