Last year, the Atlanta Braves‘ shortstop made a name for himself. Dansby Swanson put forward the season of his life, as he helped guide the team to its’ fifth straight NL East title. Unfortunately for fans, he did this in a contract year, which means his future is now in question. The Braves’ shortstop had this situation happen last season as well. After putting up decent numbers in 2021, he signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Atlanta. Now, the team and player each face decisions regarding the future. Whether or not the young star returns is still in the air. However, for the franchise and its front office, there are other names to be considered.
Below, we will examine each of the key candidates to take over the Braves shortstop position. Strengths and weaknesses will be taken into account. At the end of each summary, there will be a determination over whether or not they will be a good fit. All told, there are three prime candidates. We will begin with the current frontrunner: Swanson himself.
Braves Shortstop Candidate #1
In terms of player value last year, Swanson was no joke. After a very slow beginning, he launched a veritable rocket on the rest of the league. Among all shortstops in the NL, he ranked second in overall fWAR (6.4), first in defensive fWAR (21.3), and third in wRC+ (116). His defense was never in doubt. Where he needed improvement was in his ability to make good contact at the plate. Ironically, he had the lowest contact rate among shortstops in the National League. This came despite the fact that he had the fourth highest swing rate in the category.
For teams in pursuit of the Braves shortstop, they will have to weigh a number of things. The idea of paying out a massive contract to someone who, historically, has been wildly inconsistent may turn a few suitors away. Others might see him as a liability offensively, despite his sizzling hot summer. In any case, he will be one of the most highly examined players on the market this offseason. Personally, this writer has him returning to the Braves. He has a lot of hometown clout, and he has connected with the fanbase in the same manner Freddie Freeman did. On top of that, he’s the incumbent candidate, knows the team well, and is completely at home on the Braves infield.
Next on the candidate sheet is Carlos Correa. Many on Braves Twitter have been clamoring for GM Alex Anthopolous to splurge, and sign the thunderous star. Yes, indeed, after one year with the Minnesota Twins, Correa has opted to hit the market again. This comes after another successful season (.291 avg, 22 HR, 140 OPS+, 4.4 fWAR). His fWAR was easily in the top five among American League shortstops. In the same group, Correa was best in wRC+ (140) and second to the Braves third shortstop candidate in wOBA (.362). He would definitely be welcome as the Braves shortstop. The aforementioned movement to sign him is proof positive of that.
However, as loved by the fans as he would be, one must consider something else. Namely, his unwillingness to play the game in a conservative fashion. Correa, along with many other young stars, are well known for fiery offense and even more fiery bat flips. This could cause potential friction somewhere along the line. This is true, not only for the Braves, but for other suitors as well. Nevertheless, given his extensive offensive assets, Correa would fit in really well as the Braves’ shortstop. He may not be the absolute front runner for the position, but there are definitely a lot of upsides to having such a star around. The only question is whether or not Anthopolous is willing to offer the money.
Fit: Great, if not completely excellent
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If Anthopolous wanted to hit the trade market instead, he could look to Xander Bogaerts. He’s coming off of a rather tremendous campaign. He slashed .307/.377/.456, finishing in the top-five in all of baseball. His 171 hits ranked in the top 10 and his wOBA of .363 placed in the same spot. Bogaerts is definitely a player who relies on hard hits. He finished in the 89th percentile in average exit velocity, topping out at a max velocity of 113 MPH. So, his style of offensive play would fit very well with the Braves. The data points to a player who has a free hand and a keen eye. In a lineup with Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Michael Harris, this would work fairly nicely.
However, a severe bump in Bogaerts’s chances at becoming the new Braves shortstop is his historically bad defense. In fact, 2022 was his first season with a positive Outs Above Average since 2017. His mark of five was a massive improvement over his -11 showing from 2021. However, compared to Swanson, who put up an OAA of 21, it barely scratches the surface. If one wants to get more traditional, Bogaerts has a career fielding percentage of .922. Swanson’s is .978. The difference is still massive. In a Braves infield that is so defensively precise, Bogaerts may not be as good of a fit as people might think. He is owed $20 million per year through 2025 with a vesting option for ’26. The question is whether or not Anthopolous would trade for him and whether or not the Boston Red Sox would accept it.
Fit: Okay, but a serious long shot
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Ending the Braves Shortstop Application
In terms of shortstops in the league, those are the three most viable candidates. To reiterate, in this writer’s opinion, the next Braves shortstop will be Dansby Swanson himself. He is as beloved by the fans as many who have come before him. The caveat to that is that the fanbase (Yours Truly included) said the same thing about Freeman. Popularity, and an unwillingness to see the forest for the trees caused a lot of rapid fire judgment calls. Unfortunately, those calls were wrong and Freeman is now fielding balls somewhere else. Swanson’s situation is very similar, and we could see the same end result.
As for Correa and Bogaerts, the former is the realistic option. The latter would be the desperation move on Anthopolous’s part. Not that Bogaerts isn’t a potential replacement for Swanson. It’s just that Correa, all things considered, is the better player. Should Swanson decide to depart, the new Braves shortstop also needs to be someone that will connect with the fans in Atlanta. A quick peek around Braves Twitter shows that Correa is that person. Whether or not he winds up with the Braves remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, though. The Braves shortstop position has become one of the hottest spots in the game. Hopefully, the right person wins the job.
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Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Michael Harris
Caleb Begley is a 26 year old lover of all things sports, but especially our nation's great national pastime. He holds a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, and hopes to use it to create a career within the sportscasting realm. While in school, he was able to write and edit for the school paper's sports section, while also helping to anchor and produce the student newscast. As far as baseball itself is concerned, he is always willing to talk about the history of the game, and the statistics and stories that go along with it. He is thrilled to be able to be a part of the Last Word on Baseball team, and he hopes that he is able to contribute something that is both factual and interesting.