The market for shortstop Dansby Swanson has begun to heat up, according to Russell Dorsey of Bally Sports. He lists the Dodgers, Giants, Twins, Cubs, Red Sox and Braves as teams with interest. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Giants have been in touch with Swanson’s representatives, but that it doesn’t appear any decision is imminent.
The Twins, Cubs, Red Sox and Braves have all previously been connected to Swanson this offseason, though the mentions of the Dodgers and Giants are new. This offseason featured a group of shortstops known as the “big four,” with Trea Turner already signed with the Phillies and Xander Bogaerts with the Padres. That leaves Carlos Correa and Swanson as the two of that group left for all those shortstop-needy teams.
Though Correa and Swanson are connected in the sense that they are the two surefire everyday shortstops remaining, there’s a significant difference between the two. Both have strong reputations for their glovework, though Correa’s overall body of work at the plate is stronger. At the start of the season, MLBTR predicted a nine-year, $288MM contract for Correa but a seven-year, $154MM deal for Swanson.
Most teams would surely prefer Correa in a vacuum but the price might be an issue. Both Turner and Bogaerts got at least three years longer than projected and each secured a larger overall guarantee as well. With that context, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Correa and Swanson also end up getting deals larger than their projections.
The Giants were seen by many as the favorites for Correa after they made an offer in the $360MM range to Aaron Judge that he declined in order to return to the Yankees. However, it stands to reason that they would also reach out to Swanson and see if there’s a significant difference in the respective markets. Since the Judge non-signing, they’ve agreed to some smaller deals for Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling, bringing their 2023 payroll up to $164MM, per Roster Resource. It’s unclear how far they want to push spending this offseason, but they are still sitting on a competitive balance tax figure of $180MM, leaving them over $50MM of room before reaching the lowest luxury tax barrier of $233MM.
Giving Correa a salary in the $30MM range wouldn’t push them into the luxury tax on its own, but they do have other needs on the roster as well. They are reportedly still interested in retaining Carlos Rodón, who will also require a contract somewhere in the vicinity of $30MM on an annual basis. Adding both Rodón and Correa would start pushing them into luxury tax territory, whereas the dropdown to Swanson could lead to something closer to $20MM annually. If the CBT barrier is something they’re trying to avoid, then it’s possible the difference between a Correa and a Swanson deal could be significant for them.
For the Dodgers, they have lost their incumbent shortstop in Turner, who is now with the Phillies. The club is reportedly comfortable with moving Gavin Lux from second base to be their new shortstop, though it also makes sense for them to explore what else is available. However, they are apparently not pursuing Correa, given both his ties to the scandal-plagued 2017 Astros team that defeated the Dodgers in the World Series, as well as his high asking price. Perhaps Swanson is an attractive backup plan for the club, though they might also prefer to wait until they get clarity on the Trevor Bauer situation before making firm commitments. He is appealing his suspension and if he is successful in overturning it, the club’s CBT figure would jump from around $189MM to over $220MM. A decision is expected in the next month or so.
If that scenario were to come to pass, even a slightly more modest deal for Swanson would push them over the line into tax payor status. Since the club is reportedly considering dipping under the line to reset their status, that could be an issue. The CBT features escalating penalties for paying in consecutive seasons, meaning that the Dodgers could stay under the line in 2023 but go into 2024 as “first-time” payors.
Though he’s likely to secure a lesser contract than Correa, Swanson is no slouch. He hit 27 home runs in 2022 and produced an overall batting line of .277/.329/.447 for a wRC+ of 116. That was his first time being above-average at the plate over a full season, though it showed that he is capable of being an all-around contributor. He also stole 18 bases and posted excellent defensive marks, leading to 6.4 wins above replacement on the season, in the eyes of FanGraphs.
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