There is about a week left before the impending free agents are allowed to speak with other teams. Clubs have an exclusive negotiation window with their free agents for five days after the end of the World Series.
An extension for any notable free agent this close to the offseason would be a major surprise, but teams are thinking about staying in touch with their best players. Braves and All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson have been talking about potential contracts since at least mid-August. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Justin Toscano wrote last month that the parties had exchanged formal proposals, and the New York Post’s Jon Heyman is now shedding some more light on the discussions. According to Heyman, the Braves made an offer of around $100 million at one point this season.
The exact time the Braves made the offer is unknown, but it’s now clear that Swanson is in a strong position to beat around $100 million on his next contract. He’s headed to free agency after a year in the game. The former first overall pick has always been a strong defensive shortstop, but he was arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game in 2022. It earned him his first career Gold Glove a few months after his first trip to the Midsummer Classic. Swanson also had one of his best offensive performances, connecting on 25 homers and posting a .277/.329/.447 line while playing in each of Atlanta’s games.
Swanson’s production dwindled a little in the second half, but his overall line checked in at 16 points above the league average by wRC+ measurement. It is fully consistent with the year platform showing for Javier Baez and better than that of Trevor’s Story, each of whom were free agents in a busy shortstop class last offseason. Báez and Story started their seasons at 29, as Swanson is now. They each landed $140 million guarantees on the open market, and both players locked exclusion clauses into their deals (although the Red Sox could override Story’s exclusion by triggering a club option for a 7th season). Swanson’s reps at Excel Sports Management are surely well aware of these recent precedents, and it stands to reason that they could be looking to break the $140 million mark.
Each of the presidents of Swanson and Atlanta baseball operations, Alex Anthopoulos, has publicly stated a mutual desire to keep the shortstop in Atlanta. Swanson is a Georgia native who has never played for another team at the big league level, and it stands to reason he would be happy to stay. It’s unclear if he’d accept some sort of discount to do so, although he’s reportedly turned down an offer in the nine-figure realm suggests he’s not completely averse to testing the market.
The Braves are a year away from a high-profile stalemate with the former franchise icon Freddie Freeman. Those talks would have hit a stumbling block over the Braves’ reluctance to go six years guaranteed, and Freeman eventually signed with the Dodgers after Atlanta pivoted to land and expand. Matt Olson. Freeman was also a client of Excel Sports Management at the time, but Swanson has always maintained that back and forth would have no bearing on his relationship with the Braves or his agency.
Obviously, the fact that Swanson turned down an extension offer is no guarantee that he will leave. Heyman reports that a proposal was made at some point during the season, and Anthopoulos confirmed after their season ended that the team were still interested in a long-term deal. It goes without saying that they have stayed in touch and will continue to do so throughout the offseason. The Braves are sure to offer Swanson a qualifying offer next week, which he will reject in search of a much longer and higher commitment.