On Saturday, free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson agreed to terms with the Chicago Cubs on a seven-year pact worth $177 million. Swanson’s deal is the second richest in Cubs franchise history, trailing only the eight-year, $184 million contract signed by outfielder Jason Heyward prior to the 2016 season.While Swanson is getting used to his new surroundings, his old boss and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged on Wednesday that Swanson was willing to take “a lot less” money in order to return to Atlanta — Anthopoulos just didn’t think that the deal made sense from the Braves’ perspective.Here’s part of what Anthopoulos told The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz:But I will say this: Dansby made every effort to find a way to stay in Atlanta. We had conversations in the summer. He was willing to take a lot less than what he got. That’s important. But we have to manage in our minds short term and long term, and we have to make sure we have enough payroll to allocate a full 26. He deserves everything he got, but at a certain point, it doesn’t make sense for us. It’s hard because you’re losing a phenomenal human being and a phenomenal player.Anthopoulos declined to say where, precisely, the Braves’ offer ended up. As Schultz noted, they’re believed to have bid as high as six years and $140 million, or $37 million short of the Cubs’ winning proposal. Wherever the Braves finished, it’s clear that they were unwilling to step beyond the range they established as fair value.
Now, it’s to be seen if that proves to be a smart decision; certainly, the Braves seem likely to be worse at shortstop in 2023, save for Vaughn Grissom proving more apt defensively than expected. From a distant perspective, however, you can understand why Anthopoulos may have been reluctant to commit much more to Swanson than he offered. As CBS Sports recently noted, Swanson “ranked 120th out of 130 qualified batters last season in contact rate,” suggesting that his production could crater as he enters his 30s. Perhaps he finds a way to avoid that fate, but it’s fair to have some reservations about committing to him for seven years at a healthy price point.Of course, Anthopoulos has done this song and dance before, to some extent. Just last offseason, he traded for Matt Olson (and extended him to a long-term deal) instead of retaining franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman. Because of that, and because of the 2021 World Series victory, Anthopoulos has likely gained the benefit of the doubt in Atlanta on these matters. The whole purpose behind signing so many young players to submarket deals, the way the Braves have in recent years, is to be able to splurge elsewhere — like, say, on a veteran shortstop when the team needs one.
That Anthopoulos nevertheless passed on Swanson’s offer means he viewed the opportunity cost as being too great. He may end up being right in that respect. Still, money saved matters only if there’s an intent to spend it later; over the coming months and years, Anthopoulos will have to prove that his vision for the Braves’ roster — and their financial resources — was superior to simply retaining Swanson.