Why the Atlanta Braves should sign a top pitcher instead of shortstop Dansby Swanson

Atlanta Braves Dansby Swanson (7) tosses a ball in the dugout before Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Dansby Swanson in many ways has been the poster child for the rebuild that started in 2015 for the Atlanta Braves. In the second year, former general manager John Coppolella demanded Swanson be included in a deal when Arizona had a man crush on pitcher Shelby Miller.

It was perfect. Swanson had just been taken with the first overall pick in the draft. He was a hometown boy. He was a good-looking heartthrob who could be the face of the franchise as it returned to glory, which is exactly what happened. Swanson blossomed into a star, and the Braves got better.

And it was no coincidence that when the Braves were prepped to win the World Series in 2021, the ball was hit his way at shortstop that Tuesday night in Houston. Swanson made the play to clinch the championship.

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But now, Swanson is a free agent, free to leave his beloved Braves. Just like a year ago with Freddie Freeman, chances seem slim of a return with others able to make a lucrative offer.

Everybody loves Swanson. He’s become a tremendous leader, and he’s become one of the best fielding shortstops in the game. But he will turn 29 years old in February – that and his .255 career batting average are red flags.

Swanson hit .216 in April this past season, and then he hit .245 in the final two months of the regular season. Things didn’t improve in the playoffs, as Swanson went 2-for-16. In between May and July, Swanson hit .298 and looked like a completely different hitter.

But that’s what begs the questions: should you pay a player who can often be inconsistent $25 million a season? Do the Braves want to make Swanson the highest paid player on the team with legit questions about how good he will be offensively during the course of a five-year contract?

No, the Braves shouldn’t do that. Yes, they’ll miss Swanson, but they lost Freeman and turned around and replaced him with Matt Olson and won 101 games the next season. The Braves have an internal replacement in Vaughn Grissom, who may take time to reach Swanson’s defensive level, but he might be a better hitter sooner than we think.

Instead, the Braves should sign a pitcher. Use that money that can be saved by replacing Swanson with the young, inexpensive Grissom to sign a starting pitcher. And there’s no one better to bring in than Mets’ right-hander Jacob deGrom.

Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon are other options, but deGrom wants to be in Atlanta. He’s seemingly told everybody he could tell that his preference is to be a Brave. deGrom grew up 20 miles from where Chipper Jones was raised, so naturally Jones is deGrom’s favorite player. deGrom loved the Braves growing up as a kid, and he’s made it no secret of his desire to wear the Atlanta uniform.

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Just imagine: deGrom, Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton. There would not be a better rotation in baseball. Keep writing that rotation out on paper and see if you could reject that.

Yes, deGrom has been injured the past two years, as he’s made only 26 starts. So what? That doesn’t mean he’s going to be hurt if he signed in Atlanta. He’ll be 35 years old next June.

Again, so what? If he pitches for the team he’s always wanted to play for, especially since his old team just happens to be the top rival, chances are he would do everything possible to stay healthy and help the Braves win.

The Braves don’t need deGrom. After the top four starters, they have Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, Bryce Elder and Kyle Muller as rotation options. But they didn’t need Greg Maddux 30 years ago, either. Yes, it’s been 30 years since the Braves signed Maddux to pair him with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. It was a decade of pitching brilliance, which included a World Series title in 1995.

We could see a repeat of that formula once again if the Braves sign deGrom, who many believe is the best pitcher in the sport. Like Maddux back then, deGrom wants to come here, and it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to bring in a great pitcher to form a remarkable rotation.

The series with the Phillies showed us again how important pitching is in October. With Strider hurt and Fried sick, the Braves had no chance against Philadelphia. The Braves must make the rotation the main strength of the team, which has served as a solid strategy in the past.

Swanson will not be easy to replace. He had a great run for the Braves. But general manager Alex Anthopoulos can’t sign everybody. He’s tried, but it’s really impossible. So, his next move is to instead watch a stalwart leave and bring in someone who could help bring another championship to Atlanta.

Listen to the Bill Shanks Show weekdays at 3:00 pm on the radio in Macon, Savannah, Brunswick and Waycross and online at TheSuperStations.com. Email Bill at [email protected] 

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Atlanta Braves should sign Jacob deGrom and not Dansby Swanson