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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Dansby Swanson

Swanson is hitting the free agent market after a breakout year, so should the Yankees consider him?

Division Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves - Game Two Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Last offseason, the Yankees opted against wading into a pretty impressive shortstop market, despite having an opening at the position. With the likes of Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and several others available, the Yankees decided against taking a run at one of them. The general idea seemed to be that they had two highly rated, top-100 prospects at the position in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, who were both into the upper levels of the minors.

In the end, the Yankees seemed to go for a stopgap by trading for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. He had his moments but mostly struggled on both offense and defense. Peraza reached the majors and played well in a small sample size, but didn’t fully unseat Kiner-Falefa.

Unlike last year, there isn’t an absence of people who could play at shortstop. The Yankees avoided arbitration with Kiner-Falefa, so he’s still around. Peraza certainly warranted some sort of look, and Volpe is certainly knocking on the door. However, you could still make the case that the Yankees should try to lock down some production at the position. It seems unlikely that they would do that, but you could fairly make that argument regardless. One of the names out there that would fit that bill is Dansby Swanson, so would he be worthy of a look?

The first overall pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2015 draft, Swanson was traded to his hometown Atlanta Braves just a couple months after that as part of the very weird Shelby Miller trade. With Atlanta, Swanson then worked his way through the minors fairly quickly and debuted in 2016.

While his defense has always rated pretty decently, it took some time for Swanson to find his bat in the majors. After an above-average stint in a small sample size in his debut 2016 season, he was a below-average hitter according to wRC+ from 2017-19. He was good in the shortened 2020 season and the right around average in ‘21.

Then in 2022, Swanson had a genuine breakout season. With his defense still rated well, he hit .277/.329/.447 with 25 home runs, a 116 wRC+, and put up 6.4 fWAR. He started hitting the ball harder and higher than he had in previous seasons.

Baseball Savant

The big jump in offense also came despite putting up an OBP and SLG that weren’t terribly far off his career norms. In general, Swanson increased his hit total by over 30 with his singles being the only hit type that was noticeably higher than past years. Is that sustainable? Who knows, but it probably helped Swanson to a solid payday from someone.

The free agent predictions from MLB Trade Rumors predicted Swanson to get a seven-year deal for $154 million. Considering what some of the free agent shortstops from last year got, that’s about in line after a breakout year on offense paired with a Gold Glove-caliber year on defense. That brings us to the big question: would the Yankees do that deal? That’s the part that’s hard to see.

As mentioned, the Yankees sat out last year’s shortstop market, which featured several players who had longer track records than Swanson. One of the prospects who likely partially caused them to do that, Peraza, made it to the majors and showed some upside. The other, Volpe, made it to Triple-A and played well throughout 2022. Obviously in both cases, they’re still just prospects and far from sure things. There’s also questions about whether Volpe has the defense to stick at shortstop. All of that’s to say, it’s unlikely that after a year in which everything went mostly right for Yankee prospects at the position that the Yankees will suddenly decide they need someone else on a long-term deal. Plus, even if they were to change their minds, there’s several other, possibly better, options out there again in the likes of Correa, Trea Turner, and Xander Bogaerts.

Dansby Swason is a good player, but if one had to guess, it seems unlikely that he’ll be wearing Yankee pinstripes next year.