Three Writer Predictions Send a Surprising Shortstop to the Cubs, and This is Worth Discussing

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Three Writer Predictions Send a Surprising Shortstop to the Cubs, and This is Worth Discussing

Chicago Cubs

Normally, when one of the free agent predictions lists comes out, I’m way more focused on projected contracts than the selected teams of interest or whatever. That’s not to say the latter doesn’t have ANY value (sometimes, a prediction of Player X to Team A is informed by behind-the-scenes reporting that, for one reason or another, cannot make its way into a “report”). But mostly, it’s educated guesswork. And when it comes to possible Cubs signings, you and I can do decent educated guesswork, too.

THAT SAID, when a free agent prediction list comes out with a prediction that is VERY surprising, and made by SEVERAL writers, I’m gonna have to spotlight it.

So it is with MLBTR’s annual top 50 free agent predictions list:

Give the whole thing a read, because it’s always interesting for the usual reasons.

The one that LEAPS off the page? The Dansby Swanson section:

  1. Dansby Swanson. Seven years, $154MM.

Steve: Cubs / Tim: Cubs / Anthony: Cubs / Darragh: Twins

Traded by the Diamondbacks just six months after being selected with the No. 1 pick in 2015, Swanson made his big league debut barely one year after that top overall selection. After a few years of anywhere from lackluster to downright poor offensive output, Swanson turned a corner in 2019 and, since 2020, has been an above-average offensive player: .265/.324/.451, 62 home runs, 80 doubles, three triples, 32-for-42 in stolen bases.

Granted, by measure of wRC+, Swanson has “only” been nine percent better than league-average in that three-year span (though 16% in 2022 alone). But, for a player who provides plenty of baserunning value and has been considered anywhere from a plus to an elite defender at shortstop, that’s plenty of bat. Swanson’s 2022 season, in particular, was sensational in the eyes of DRS (9) and OAA (20). Statcast has been particularly bullish on Swanson’s defense, ranking him 13th among all big leaguers in OAA (38) and 15th in Runs Above Average (28) since 2018.

Swanson received but will reject a qualifying offer, subjecting him to draft-pick compensation this winter. At 29 years old this February, he’s the second-youngest in this top tier. Swanson surely took note as both Javier Baez and Trevor Story — who also had a qualifying offer attached to him — landed six-year deals with $140MM guarantees last year at the same age last winter.

The Braves and Swanson have both publicly expressed interest in a reunion, and Atlanta reportedly offered him an extension in the vicinity of $100MM at some point during the season. That didn’t get the job done, and Swanson can now head to the market and gauge interest from the same field of teams that’ll be looking into Correa, Turner and Bogaerts. We feel he’ll be the “most affordable” of the bunch and perhaps sign the shortest deal, which could make him a more viable option for some of the typically lower-payroll clubs in that group.

I’m surprised. Very surprised. Where to begin.

OK, so we do believe the Chicago Cubs are sincere in their interest in signing one of the four top free agent shortstops, and although we most frequently talk about the other three, Dansby Swanson is one of them. There was also a look that Michael did some time ago that indicated if the Cubs were PRIMARILY interested in getting more balls in the air from their free agent additions, Swanson might be the best of the four at that. Also, depending on how you measure and what your scouts are telling you, it’s possible Swanson is the best defender of the four. Maybe that would be a priority for the Cubs.

Point there being, I don’t want to ignore Swanson in this foursome of free agent shortstops just because he is the only one who hasn’t come up in a “rumor” attached to the Cubs. They might have real interest.

But that said, for THREE of the four MLBTR writers to predict Swanson to the Cubs? When we haven’t heard that at all in a sourced report is … wild. Is that just a coincidence? That three of them took a wild stab and wound up with the Cubs? Is it because they have heard some of those friend-of-a-friend rumors that don’t pass muster enough to write up, but are living in the backs of their minds? (For what it’s worth, I hear stuff like that all the time, and I have not heard a peep about the Cubs and Swanson.)

I don’t know where to land on this, but it’s wild. It’s wild to see near consensus from these writers who live in the rumor world, pegging Swanson to the Cubs. Genuinely not sure what to make of it – which I don’t mean as a criticism. It’s just not something I ever would’ve predicted for their predictions.

As for the contract projection, I will take issue with that part. Although I can certainly see Swanson landing a $150M+ guarantee on the market, we know that the Cubs are going to be vehemently opposed to doing a seven-year deal, even if it lowered the AAV. That’s just not what they’re about right now. Sure, if they were FIXATED on Swanson, specifically, and if a $150M guarantee was what it took to make it happen, the Cubs might prefer to spread it out as much as possible (time value of money and all). But it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cubs actually preferring a five-year deal, even with the guarantee super close to the same price level.

Rumors have it that the Braves have tried to sign Swanson for around $100 million, which I would guess is over five years (because anything longer would be kinda insulting for just $100 million). Would he consider five and $125 million? Swanson may not be my preferred shortstop target for the Cubs – I have concerns about the recency and brevity of his elite-level performance – but that would seem like a pretty sweet deal, honestly.

Swanson would cost draft pick compensation, but I tend to think the Cubs won’t be super concerned about that this year in this tier of player. For one thing, their second round pick is lower than it was last year; for another thing, the farm system has been built up to incredible depths; and for still another thing, assuming Willson Contreras signs elsewhere, the Cubs will pick up a comp pick to offset the loss (emotionally, at least).

If a Swanson-to-Cubs rumor pops up, we’ll dig in more on the fit.

As for the rest of the MLBTR predictions, we see some of the writers sending Kodai Senga to the Cubs (5/$75M – we keep seeing that $15M AAV as a guess), Jose Abreu to the Cubs (2/$40M – seems high), Sean Manaea to the Cubs (4/$52M – that’s a steal if he bounces back, but if he doesn’t, it’s atrocious), Andrew Heaney to the Cubs (3/$42M – wow, you’d really have to believe he’ll unlock), Noah Syndergaard to the Cubs (3/$36M – would be fine, not exciting), Zach Eflin to the Cubs (2/$22M – yes, do it!), and Carlos Estevez to the Cubs (3/$21M – he’s a fine reliever, but no way the Cubs would pay that price tag).

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.