Power Development, Projections, Floor, Value at Wrigley, the Many Needs Addressed, and Other Dansby Swanson Bullets

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Power Development, Projections, Floor, Value at Wrigley, the Many Needs Addressed, and Other Dansby Swanson Bullets

Chicago Cubs

A smattering of Dansby Swanson bits from around the web, in reaction to the Cubs’ reported $177 million signing …

  • Keith Law was unquestionably the high man on Dansby Swanson this offseason, ranking him as the third best free agent (behind Carlos Correa and Trea Turner, but AHEAD OF Aaron Judge … ). I certainly won’t say he was right on that, but I think it’s useful context to have when reading his evaluation of the Cubs’ signing, which comes at a dramatically lower cost than the other shortstops or Judge. Among Law’s comments, and why he liked Swanson so much in this class, is that he believes his FLOOR is basically the price tag he just signed for:

The 2022 season was Swanson’s best-case scenario: 115 wRC+, +21 outs saved, and in 162 games played that’s more than six wins above replacement. He might do that again once in this deal, but even I, as the high man on Swanson’s free agency case, don’t expect more than that. I’m more bullish on him because I think his floor is reasonably high – the worst-case scenario for him, based on his track record, is he’s a slightly below-average bat and a slightly above-average fielder, and still at shortstop, which is probably a 2.5-3 WAR player. At $25.3 million per year, he’d be paid about what he was worth.

  • Again, I’m not sure I would go quite as far as Law – we have seen “floors” turn out to be surprisingly too optimistic – but it is fair to note that Swanson’s defense at shortstop and durability create a lot of value. And, although 2022 was probably as good as the bat could realistically be (and probably won’t be repeated), Swanson does have an established track record (5-ish years) of being pretty darn close to average at the plate. From a well-above-average defensive shortstop who is also an above-average base-runner? That’s a valuable player!
  • To that point, you can see the ZiPS projections for the deal here, in a Ben Clemens write-up of the deal:
  • A range from 4.5 WAR in year one of the deal, trending down to 1.8 in year seven, with four of the seasons at 3.0 WAR or better? Yeah. I would definitely take that. (Incredibly, the ZiPS projection’s translated value for the deal? $176.2 million … nearly an exact match.)
  • Clemens points out a lot of interesting factors in Swanson’s evolution over the last few seasons, including the obvious and dramatic increase in power (he’s barreling the ball much more than he used to, but doing so at the expense of more swing-and-miss), and the fact that he DESTROYS fastballs while REALLY struggling against sliders. Overall, though, it’s an extremely complimentary take on Swanson’s future, and his addition to the Cubs.
  • Trendlines:
  • Speaking of the positive side of things, I really do love how Swanson’s batted ball profile could play at Wrigley Field:
  • Swanson should see a boost to his home run totals by virtue of playing half his games at Wrigley instead of Truist Park. Pepper those alley baskets, buddy. You might even see a small boost in doubles at the alleys, where balls that are easy catches at other parks become unplayably close to the wall at Wrigley.
  • We understandably make a lot out of Swanson’s likely-inflated BABIP last year (.348), but it’s only fair to point out that his slugging wound up 14 points lower than his expected slugging. Net it out, and you have a guy who probably got lucky and also unlucky, which explains why his wOBA (.337) exactly matched his expected wOBA (.337). Maybe I’m not being generous enough to the bat, and should be speculating that he COULD be a, say, 110 wRC+ guy in 2023?
  • Setting aside the on-field, baseball-results aspect of wanting to add Swanson, there really are certain atmospheric realities that pushed the Cubs to make the deal, as Patrick Mooney writes:

It would have been so awkward. Picture the highest-ranking members of the Cubs’ organization, dressed in their tailored sport coats and quarter-zip pullovers, filing in to face the crowd at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The team just released the schedule for the 2023 Cubs Convention, stuffing one day (Jan. 14) with Q&A sessions for the Ricketts family, club presidents Jed Hoyer (baseball operations) and Crane Kenney (business operations), general manager Carter Hawkins, and manager David Ross and his major-league coaching staff. Instead of venting their frustrations on Twitter or canceling season-ticket packages or cutting the cord from Marquee Sports Network, the diehards could directly tell management how they really feel ….

Ignoring the fans isn’t a smart strategy, either. They saw all the construction in Wrigleyville before and after the 2016 World Series and watched the Cubs sit out the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado sweepstakes. They largely understood the plan when Theo Epstein and Hoyer first took over baseball operations after the 2011 season. But passing on Swanson, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts — after trading Yu Darvish, non-tendering Kyle Schwarber, and not reaching new contract extensions with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez or Willson Contreras — would have been another PR disaster that exposed a lack of imagination and direction.

  • Again, signing Swanson isn’t PRIMARILY about avoiding the ugly drama that would’ve necessarily followed striking out on all four shortstops, but it’s a factor. We’d be naive to act as if it isn’t, or that this move wasn’t about addressing a lot of different TYPES of needs. That said, Mooney’s piece focuses more on the baseball impact, and the bets the Cubs are making on Swanson’s value going forward. Good read.
  • Funsies:
  • This tear-down moment absolutely did not go as dramatically as he planned (but he still shared it … ):
  • Debate amongst yourselves whether that is his room or his kid’s.

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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.