CHICAGO – Dansby Swanson takes his responsibilities seriously, understanding the impact and expectations that come with being an All-Star in the first season of a seven-year, $177 million contract. Money is always a deciding factor for free agents, but Swanson chose to sign with a rebuilding squad, knowing it could help create a new culture and get the front office to listen. Swanson was sold on the idea of competing in 2023, not selling on the August 1 trading deadline.
“It’s just an ongoing conversation about the vision of the Chicago Cubs,” Swanson said. “Where do we want to go? And how are we going to get there?”
Swanson shares his thoughts with President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer and General Manager Carter Hawkins, who targeted the Gold Glove shortstop for his leadership skills and playoff experience with the Atlanta Braves. That frame of reference includes the Atlanta World Series taking place in 2021, when the .500 sub made several small trades around the trade deadline to deepen the roster and make additional improvements.
Clearly, the Cubs aren’t planning on giving up good prospects for players on loan this summer. Their odds of winning the World Championship this year are close to zero percent. Marcus Strowman is likely to spar with another team in August. The scenario in which Hoyer and Hawkins hold at the trade deadline relies on the team maintaining a winning streak, getting close to . 500 and showing an overall consistency that has been lacking for months.
Swanson’s comeback to Saturday’s rain-soaked 8-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field — along with his respected sound on baseball operations — are two more variables to consider. This is always easier said than done, but the Cubs could be more transactional, buying talent for next season and making deals that include major league players from both sides. Cubs can place a higher value on continuity and the ability to play meaningful and entertaining games in September.
“Being new and coming here from somewhere else, it’s easier to have a different perspective and a fresh perspective,” Swanson said. “In a way, I feel like I’m here as a reminder of, ‘Hey, there are things to do, and different ways of looking at things.'” “We were able to have good, honest communication about a lot of things.”
Swanson’s instincts will not override all of the information stored on the team’s “Ivy” platform. He is still just an employee and not the boss who makes the decisions. But if the Cubs truly believe in their process, the work of the major league coaching staff, the latest strides in player development, and the underlying data that the record should be better than 47-51, then that confidence should be reflected in their actions at the trade deadline.
Swanson is a regular visitor to the manager’s office, someone who can act as a go-between for the club’s side and explain what the players think. Swanson is interested in the small moments within the game as well as the bigger picture, offering David Ross ideas for how the team should run cut plays and relays. Swanson sent a congratulatory message to Matt Shaw the night the Cubs selected the University of Maryland player with their first-round pick in the 2023 MLB draft.
Swanson has described himself as an honorary assistant coach while he was recently sidelined with a bruised left heel. Ross joked that Swanson “tried to be a coach and beat coach and beat coach” during his time on the injured list: “He just can’t stop it.” Swanson’s drive and focus propelled Vanderbilt to its first College World Series title, and later helped the Braves emerge as perennial playoff contenders.
“His makeup is off the charts,” said Ross. “That’s what we’ve set in the off-season, trying to get someone in the right way and thinking the right things and he’s been part of winning for a really long time. It shows when you’re around him constantly. His willingness to lead and pass on his wisdom and experience to others is really valuable.
He understands the areas we need to improve. You will see it during games, trying to help others. He’s very open about talking to young people, being there for young people. Even when they are sent (to the palace), he gives the young men his mobile phone number and says, “Hey, if I can help in any way.”
In his first bunt since July 5, Swanson lined the first pitch he saw—Miles Mikolas’ 95-mph fastball—into right field for a double, then scored his team’s first run. Swanson hit one RBI with two outs in the middle in the third inning. Swanson hit a strike in the sixth inning, moments after back-to-back singles from Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki turned a 6-5 lead into an 8-6 lead.
Bellinger, who hit 457 with six home runs in July, said he had an open dialogue with a front office that kept him informed amid trade rumours. There will be internal support behind the idea of bringing him back next season, acknowledging that he has a lot of things the Cubs lack right now — left power, the ability to play Gold Glove-level defense in need positions (center field and first base) and some swagger. Unlike Stroman, 32, Bellinger, 28, could receive a qualifying offer after this season. There is also a simple way for the Cubs to keep Bellinger – by offering him the most money.
If the Cubs are sold at the trade deadline, there will be some difficult and confusing conversations at Wrigley Field (as well as on the business side of the organization). Of course, Swanson wanted to be in the lineup all this month, knowing how big these games are in terms of how those results impact what the front office does next. At the same time, Swanson is trying to prove that every pitch matters, and every game should be played with intent. Swanson doesn’t think winning is a switch that can be turned on and off.
“The good teams I’ve been in have taken it very seriously,” said Swanson. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first inning or the ninth, every game, every moment matters obviously. It has to be viewed the same way. Whether it’s the first game or the seventy-third or ninety-third game, our job every day is to go out and perform at a high level.”
(Top photo by Dansby Swanson: Michael Reeves/Getty Images)
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