Dansby Swanson was willing to take ‘a lot less’ money to stay with Braves, GM Alex Anthopoulos says

On Saturday, free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson agreed to terms with the Chicago Cubs on a seven-year, $177 million contract. Swanson’s deal is the second-richest in Cubs franchise history, behind only the eight-year, $184 million contract that outfielder Jason Heyward signed before the 2016 season.

While Swanson acclimates to his new surroundings, his old boss and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos acknowledged Wednesday that Swanson was willing to take “a lot less” money to return to Atlanta — Anthopoulos just didn’t think the deal made sense from the Braves’ perspective.

Watch 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 discussions over the summer. He was willing to take much less than what he got. This is 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 put a full 26. He deserves everything he got, but at some point, it doesn’t make sense to us. It’s difficult because you lose an amazing person and an amazing player.

Anthopoulos declined to say exactly where the Braves’ offer ended up. As Schultz noted, they are believed to have offered up to six years and $140 million, or $37 million less than the offer the Cubs won. Wherever the Braves ended up, it’s clear they weren’t willing to move beyond the range they established as reasonable value.

Now, we have to see if this turns out to be a smart decision. Sure, the Braves seem likely to be worse at shortstop in 2023, except for Vaughn Grissom who is proving to be a better fit defensively than expected. In hindsight, though, you can understand why Anthopoulos might have been reluctant to commit to Swanson much more than he offered.

As CBS Sports recently noted, Swanson “ranked 120th out of 130 eligible batters last season in contact percentage,” suggesting his production could decline as he enters his 30s. Maybe he’ll find a way to avoid that fate, but it’s fair to have some reservations about committing him to seven years at a healthy price.

Of course, Anthopoulos has done this song and dance before, to an extent. Just last offseason, he traded for Matt Olson (and extended him to a long-term deal) instead of keeping franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman. Because of that, and because of the World Series win in 2021, Anthopoulos has likely earned the benefit of the doubt in Atlanta on these matters. The whole point behind signing so many young players to submarket deals, as the Braves have done in recent years, is so they can figure in elsewhere — like, say, a veteran when the team needs it.

That Anthopoulos nevertheless passed on Swanson’s offer means that he considered the opportunity cost too great. He may be right in that regard after all. However, money saved only matters if there is an intention to spend it later. in 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 keeping Swanson.

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