Braves Shortstop Debate: To Sign, to Trade, or to Stay the Course?

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When Alex Anthopoulos allowed Dansby Swanson to walk after allegedly turning down a 6 year/$140MM deal, I wonder if he knew that 2 of the top 4 shortstops on the free agent market would sign for $280MM and $300MM, and Carlos Correa, the 3rd and the youngest, would probably sign for more.

My guess is no, as 6/$140MM now sounds like an absolute bargain.

So, what is the plan for shortstop? That’s the question without an answer at the moment and one I’ll try my best to bring some clarity. In the piece, I’ll look at 4 options:

  1. Staying pat
  2. The trade market
  3. Buying high
  4. Buying low

Let me say this… whatever the Braves decide, they are going to be fine. This team is absolutely stacked, and with a full year of a healthy Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Michael Harris, and others, this team is going to win a lot and will, once again, compete hard for winning the division.

Now…onward.

What if the Braves Stay Pat at SS?

We’ve already received word and high praise from the infield wizard himself, Mr. Ron Washington, on the advancement of Vaughn Grissom‘s defensive skills. Anthopoulos wanted Washington to prepare Grissom for the role of starting shortstop should Braves not sign one for 2023. While I appreciate the confidence of Ron Washington, a month of coaching isn’t likely to change Grissom’s skillset enough to warrant starting him at shortstop.

I’d give this option about 10%

On other hand, Orlando Arcia, who’s shown a revamped swing since being acquired, could handle the job. While he doesn’t have the range of Dansby, he has a strong arm, a great quick twitch, and excellent hands that would at least equate to an average fielding shortstop. If the Braves went this route, they’d have to find a utility player for the bench.

I’d give this option about 10%

What if the Braves Traded for a Shortstop?

The Braves farm system is a desert…especially position prospects. If one were to gather a 10 Braves farm gurus and ask each individually who is the Braves best position prospect, you’d likely get 6-7 different answers. That’s…not good.

However, the Braves have an absolute stacked 26-man, a stacked 40-man, and can draw from their 40-man to provide a competitive offer for any trade they choose to pursue.

There are candidates that could be had should teams choose to dangle them. It’s my opinion that, at the right price, Willy Adames, Nico Hoerner, Kim Ha-Seong, and Amed Rosario are options that could entice AA. Adames is the cream of this crop and the list is intentionally in order of preference. If AA wanted and if Adames was available, he could have him tomorrow, utilizing his own 40-man to meet the ask.

I’d give this option about 30%

What if the Braves Bought HIGH?

By buying high, I mean what if the Braves brought Dansby Swanson back to Atlanta? After seeing what Xander Boegarts and Trea Turner went for, I’m sure Dansby’s camp has raised the price from the in-season 6/$140MM ask. Outside of Carlos Correa, which is not something I could see AA pursuing, there’s not another high end SS, so if this is the option, it’ll be the hometown hero.

I’d give this option about 20%

What if the Braves Bought Low?

The shortstop free agent market this season is an all-timer with 4 of the game’s top SS available. From there, the market drops quick and there’s only 1 name left that justifies a starting gig and that is a former Braves farmhand, Elvis Andrus. Many are unaware, but Andrus had a career resurgence in 2022 with the A’s, collecting 3.5 fWAR while playing exceptional defense and hitting 17 HRs. The previous 4 years were not kind to Andrus and it’s definitely a risk to believe that 2022’s production is what he’s capable of in 2023.

I’d give this option about 30%

Thoughts? What do you want? What do you expect? Let’s hear it!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

36 thoughts on “Braves Shortstop Debate: To Sign, to Trade, or to Stay the Course?”

  1. Let’s buy high. Dansby just fits in Atlanta and I do start to worry about the clubhouse if we lose two high character leaders in back-to-back seasons.

  2. I guess my ranking would be something like this…

    1) Grissom, having magically learned how to play a competent shortstop over the offseason
    2) Correa
    3) Swanson
    4) Kim
    5) Hoerner
    6) Adames

    After this, you quickly move into who-gives-a-crap territory where they’re unlikely to help anyway. Might as well grab the cheapest guy at that point.

    I also don’t think any of these are particularly realistic at this point. Grissom didn’t really look like a shortstop to me last year, but I have no idea if that’s a physical thing or something that can be fixed — I am frequently wrong about players’ defensive limitations. (I remember thinking it was a good thing when the Braves traded Tyler Flowers to Chicago for Javy Vazquez because he’d be able to DH when his glove inevitably moved him off catcher.) They’re not signing a stud, and I don’t think any of the trade targets are available. So that’s encouraging.

  3. Dansby is the best fit. Not sure why the Braves have this arbitrary “cap” they’ll pay him. 6/140 for the perfect SS for your org.

  4. Since I like HRs, I’ll go with Adames as the fielding metrics are much much kinder to him than I thought.

    I’ve never been a big Swanson guy. That’s just too much money for a guy who’s 2022 season very well may be an outlier. If he’s the player he was last year for the next 5 years, it would be worth it. If he’s an amalgam of the previous seasons hitting around .250 with some pop and a good but not exceptional glove, no way.

    I as an OOTPer and a Braves fan, not a fan of individual players per se, tend to discount clubhouse stuff so YMMV on that stuff. I tend to think that stuff is overrated and doesn’t matter very much over 162 games.

  5. Grin and bear it and pay the man. I know the end of the contract will not be pleasant but the future is not guaranteed and right now the team is championship caliber. No need to intentionally downgrade – plus it’s not my money.

    I’m also not sure we have the prospects to get someone like Adames or Hoerner; it’s basically Muller, Shuster, and lottery tickets

  6. @8, I 100% agree — of course, that’s exactly what I said earlier in the offseason! There’s no price that would bring back Adames or Hoerner that would not be vastly more expensive than any of us would be comfortable with paying.

    I cannot adequately express how little I believe in Elvis Andrus, who in his career has mostly been a banjo-hitting glove whiz. His defense is not as good now as it once was, although he still appears to be a capable fielder despite a weak arm.

    As near as I can tell, in 2022 he rode a massive spike in his HR/FB% rate (career rate of 5.9%; last year it was 10.7%). His steep four-year decline in offense from ages 29-32 occurred at exactly the age that it occurs for most other players; he’s 34 now and I cannot believe that last year was anything but a dead-cat bounce. Sure, he’s a second division starter. But odds are that on true talent, he’s the 1.5-win player he’s been for the last half-decade, rather than the 17-homer wonder he was this past summer.

  7. If the SS situation is as dire as everyone seems to think it is, I’d check in on Andrelton and his bad shoulder (and poor bat) and see what’s there. We know he can catch the ball. Otherwise, I second Putter’s post @ #3. Dansby has a solid glove, but he also provides leadership.

  8. I’d give it to Grissom for 60 games and see what happens. Nobody really knows what his defense will look like. He looked fine at 2B to me. I think his bat will play – though there will be adjustments and slumps (don’t forget Dansby’s 68 OPS+ his first full season). I just think he looks like a player. I don’t want to trade him, and he can’t sit the bench in the majors, too young for that. Don’t want to trade him. Don’t want to trade Contreras. I guess that means we do nothing other than find something better than negative WAR in LF.

    Not saying I wouldn’t trade Contreras or Grissom (or Albies for that matter) for the right return. I just don’t see the right return this year. Maybe AA does.

  9. I keep proposing a trade with the Yankees that makes sense for both parties but none of you guys seem to care that much for. What’s wrong with acquiring a hot ss prospect?

  10. I have concerns about giving Dansby all the money, and clearly so do the Braves. Most of his career he has struggled to be a 2 win player with the notable exception of last year.

  11. @12, it’s not a bad idea at all, but what makes their prospect automatically better than ours? Our guy looks pretty good to me, if you’re willing to play a rookie at SS.

    We trade Contreras and then TDA has to play a whole season and stay healthy otherwise the position becomes a black hole. That’s so risky to me. I’m not trading Grissom after seeing his 2022 small sample size. He’s just as hot of a prospect as anyone to my lying eyes. His numbers to date are pretty exciting – to me at least.

    Regardless of what we do at SS, maybe there’s still some hope in LF. What about a short prove-it deal for Conforto? Is that worth a look?

  12. Teams don’t tend to give up their hotshot shortstop prospects. Especially the Yankees, who don’t have a clear answer at the position and would be wise to hedge their bets.

  13. The yanks have Volpe and Peraza and can’t play both. Volpe is a top-10 in mlb prospect while Peraza got some mlb playing time last year and looked good (he projects for a 105 ops+ with plus defense). They have nobody at catcher who can hit better than I do. It just makes too much sense

  14. Sure they can play both. They start Volpe at shortstop in April, but after four weeks he’s hitting .187 and is getting booed in his home ABs. So they send him down and try Peraza. Or vice versa. Or Peraza is looking like an early RoY favorite, but oops, he gets hit on the hand and is out for months, so now it’s Volpe’s opportunity. Or both are looking great but now Gleyber Torres is sucking, so he gets benched and now one’s playing second.

    That’s not to say they definitely will keep both, of course. But the only situation in which they can’t keep both is one in which both are absolutely ready and everyone else is also playing well, and I don’t think even the Yankees can say that for sure.

  15. Love Dansby .. like him in late innings with a clutch hit better than anybody we got but 27 mil a year is a stretch .. better spend that on improving LF mainly … trade for a SS .. Grissom not ready for that IMO .. looks a step slow

  16. @22…..yep .. Mets and Phillies going all out … they want to win .. what are we waiting on ????? LF or SS ….??? We need to answer the call since we been bragging about a top 5 payroll .. wth

  17. The Mets need power, so I’m fine with them keeping Nimmo. I guess he was probably never gonna be allowed to come here anyways. One less name off the board. I’m talking myself into taking a flyer on Conforto if he’s fully recovered.

  18. This is the same sport that had a work stoppage a year ago because players like Max Scherzer insisted the owners were greedy. I don’t ever want to hear it again.

  19. The owners are greedy. They’re also hypocritical! They are spending like drunken sailors now, but they’ll feel regretful the morning after.

  20. Also, a good half the teams in the league have yet to hand out a significant major league contract so far this season. The Jays, whose ownership has more money than god, are complaining about being maxed out. The Mariners, who broke a twenty-odd year playoff drought and are seeing their window open, are banging the internal improvements drum. The Dodgers resigned Kershaw to a sweetheart deal, but have been making noises about trying to reset their luxury tax penalty after winning 111 games and losing the left side of their infield. The White Sox say they’re done after signing Clevinger to a one-year make-good deal. And then there’s the Braves.

    It’s really only a half-dozen or so ownership groups who are spending.

  21. @27 Two questions: why are they spending like drunken sailors, and why do you think they’ll regret it?

  22. Just want to ask one more time if anyone is interested in a free copy of Loserville, a book about Atlanta and professional sports. I bought a bunch of copies to support the author, and I’ll ship it out to you for free. I’d rather it sit on your bookshelf than have multiple copies sitting on mine! Email me at rob copenhaver at live dot com.

  23. @30, they’re spending like drunken sailors now because they feel like they have to win. Steve Cohen (Mets) and Peter Seidler (Padres) have more or less explicitly said as much; so has John Middleton of the Phillies, if I recall. And the Steinbrenners are and remain Steinbrenners.

    And anxiety is contagious, so when one team spends a boatload of money, there’s often a bit of me-too in the air, particularly for nervous little brother franchises like the Padres and Phillies who have decades’ worth of inferiority complexes and chips on their shoulder for losing nearly every year to the well-funded and better-run teams just up the highway from them.

    Why will they regret it? These teams are, for reasons seemingly connected to the luxury tax, signing players to nearly unprecedentedly long contracts, leading to deals that are insanely backloaded. They’re keeping the AAV down today, but after six or eight years or so, they’re going to have tens of millions of dollars of their payroll tied up in guys who are unplayable. That will have been completely foreseeable, as it’s baked into the logic of the contracts — trading greater length for lower AAV — but regret is not always a rational emotion, as Tom Hicks demonstrated by almost instantly regretting the $250 million he gave to Alex Rodriguez, despite the fact that Alex ended up easily being worth the money.

  24. @30 — It’s a confluence of several factors.

    1) There are fewer avenues for teams to acquire talent than ever before. This is partially due to ownership deliberately constricting them — reducing the number of draft rounds, hard capping amateur spending both domestically and internationally, contracting the minor leagues… all of these means there’s less chance of finding someone who could be a guy. With fewer opportunities to acquire players, it becomes much more difficult for a draft-and-develop teambuilding strategy to work. Even the Braves, who are as close to a platonic ideal of this type of philosophy as you get in the modern game, have literally half their lineup, between 20 and 40 percent of their rotation (depending on how much credit you give them for Fried), and most of their bullpen being imports from outside the organization.

    Additionally, if a team does find a good young player, that team is now much more likely to hang onto him like grim death. Prospect-hugging is endemic in modern front offices, partially because prospects are a good excuse as to why you’re not spending any money (a lot of fans buy into this), partially because the modern efficiency-oriented front office has identified young players as the best ROI, and partially because even teams willing to trade prospects for short-term help have realized that they don’t actually need to trade their blue-chippers for the guy they want. The Red Sox put Mookie Betts, one of the most transcendent players in the modern game, on the market and got one high-end prospect for him. (And not even a generational prospect or anything, just your garden-variety top 50 prospect.) The days of using one enticing major league asset to jump-start your entire team are behind us, I suspect (as I think the Nationals are about to find out to their sorrow).

    So if you’re a team in a hole, you can’t draft your way out, you can’t scout your way out, and you can’t turn your best assets into a bonanza of young players and try and build your way out that way either. That leaves free agency. And if you’re going to try to buy your way to excellence, that means playing at the top of the market. Signing a number four starter, a mediocre outfielder, and two relievers isn’t going to turn your 72-win team into a contender. You’ll note that the Rangers, the Tigers, the Padres, the Mets, and the Phillies all tried to do the “build a homegrown core, then supplement with free agency” plan, and it failed miserably (ah, for the days when the Braves’ rivals thought Scott Kingery and Matt Harvey were core pieces), so they had to go all-in on more free agency signings to get better fast or concede that it’s a lost cause and they were going to have to restart the rebuild again. So far the Mets and Phils have managed to turn it over, the Padres have had to empty out their once-deep farm system in order to patch over holes, the Tigers seem to be spiraling back into irrelevance, and the Rangers… well, we’ll see.

    2) The length of these contracts is driven pretty much entirely by the fact that the luxury cap isn’t keeping pace with revenues. The players want their slice, but in order to get it the teams either have to commit to a big tax hit or sign these guys until they’re 40. So far, teams seem to see the latter as the lesser evil for them. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think any of the teams who have signed an 11-year contract actually expects the player to still be worth his price tag a decade from now. It seems more likely that the teams view these contracts as more like six- or seven-year deals with a lot of deferred money, just structured in a way that gives them a more favorable luxury tax bill. And hey, if Xander Bogaerts beats the odds and is still an effective player at 39 or whatever, you’ve still got him under contract. Stranger things have happened.)

    3) On top of that, the players’ overall share of revenue has actually shrunk, because several teams are just not spending money. Not “not spending $200+ million,” but “not spending $100 million.” The Mets will probably spend more on luxury tax this season than at least three entire organizations spend on their entire major league rosters — and while that says something about the Mets, it says more about those cheapskate organizations. If you’re a player and you get to free agency in a good spot, you’re heavily incentivized to make sure you get the bag, because it’s likely to be your only shot.

    People forget that teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay made a fetish of “efficiency” because they were actually working under extremely restrictive budgets. If they wanted to compete, they had to squeeze every penny until it squeaked. The modern front office, however, sees efficiency as an end unto itself. Teams like Boston and Chicago, who have no excuse, would rather lose efficiently than win but have to pay a few extra bucks for it. It is completely unsurprising that executives from that kind of culture would look at a team actually spending money to win and collapse onto the nearest fainting couch. (Boston’s GM was reportedly flabbergasted that his offer to Bogaerts of less than half of what Francisco Lindor got several years ago wasn’t enough to close the deal.) For years, these guys controlled how free agents were valued, and there were enough of them to suppress the markets for free agents — even if they weren’t actively colluding, the fact that they all mostly thought the same way caused them to act in similar ways. Now, though, the ground has changed. You’ve got the teams mostly self-dividing between teams that are actively trying to win, and teams that just want to watch the money flow in. The ambitious teams aren’t letting the specter of inefficiency stop them from acquiring the guys they want.

    It seems pretty clear to me that ownership’s intention was that the luxury tax would serve as an effective cap, more or less freezing player salaries and allowing them to pocket the difference when revenues increased. This only works, though, if everyone agrees to play by the rules. If a few owners decide that they want a ring more than they want the highest possible profits, the luxury penalties are largely a paper tiger, and we’re seeing what happens when teams start ignoring them.

    As for regrets? Well, this is just my opinion, but I tend to think that the “well, the team looks good now, but we’ll see how it looks in ten years” criticism to be a loser’s mentality. We could all be dead in ten years. A beer could be $35 in ten years. The end of the Turner/Bogaerts contracts are two full CBA negotiations away; who knows what the financial state of baseball (or America, or the world) looks like then. In the meantime, fans of those teams have a competitive roster to watch. That’s what a front office’s job should be, even if in reality it frequently isn’t.

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