For a variety of reasons, I’ve come to appreciate the Dansby Swanson signing to an increasing degree in the time since the deal was announced. It started with the contract looking better on paper than those signed by other top shortstops — and I don’t mean that I’m glad the Cubs “saved” money — then bumped up further after hearing the tearful explanation of why it meant so much for Swanson to play for his late grandfather’s second-favorite team.
The more I hear from and about the former No. 1 overall pick out of Vanderbilt, the more I like him. The Cubs are his team now and that’s a good thing because just about every veteran leader from the last several seasons has been shipped out, leaving Kyle Hendricks as the only player left from the World Series roster. Swanson knows what it’s like to win at every level and he brings that to an organization that’s just restarting its competitive journey.
“Winning starts with the mentality,” Swanson said. “It starts with the belief each and every day that you’re not showing up wanting to win, you’re showing up that you’re going to win. It’s never a matter of ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of ‘when.’
“And then when you start to win, it really starts to build confidence in the organization; it starts to build confidence within your teammates. Winning baseball is really just about playing the game to win. I know it sounds super cliché, but there are so many times and examples where you can tell like, ‘Oh, this guy is doing this for himself.’ Or, ‘He was wanting to do this to get the RBI instead of moving the runner or whatever.’”
What comes across now as preternatural calm wasn’t always easy, though, and there was a time not that long ago when Swanson was beset by anxiety and doubt. Maria Torres offered an excellent look at Swanson’s mental health journey for The Athletic and I highly recommend checking it out if you have a subscription. The nutshell version is that the shortstop got connected with mental wellness coach Armando Gonzalez, who helped Swanson get to the root cause of his anxiety.
By identifying and flushing the specific thoughts that were effectively poisoning his mind, Swanson was finally able to let go of burdens he didn’t even know were there.
“Armando did a really good job of helping me understand the details and everything in the roots of why I was feeling the way I was feeling and why, even when I’d gotten past all that, certain things would come back,” Swanson explained. “They still do from time to time. You start overthinking things. You start thinking you’re not as good or whatever. There’s all those kind of lies and things that come about. But with our regular work that we do it helps me get past those moments a little bit quicker.”
That work began prior to the 2020 season, in which Swanson posted a career-high 2.3 fWAR despite playing just 60 games. He then jumped to 3.4 fWAR in ’21 and 6.4 last season with his first All-Star appearance and Gold Glove award. Looking at his career numbers in aggregate gives the impression that Swanson is merely a solid player with an aberrant season in a contract year, but this greater context offers hope that the best is yet to come.
Former Cubs signing all over
The Robert Stock Era in Chicago lasted just one game, but the hard-throwing righty endeared himself to chronically online fans with his humor and wit on Twitter. He’s still a great follow, posting everything from baby content to movie reviews. After a brief fling with the Mets, Stock headed to the KBO for a year and then worked with the folks at Driveline to improve his stuff. The new sinker he displayed at a recent pro day was particularly nice.
— Driveline Baseball (@DrivelineBB) January 24, 2023
The Brewers saw enough to offer Stock a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp, so there’s a good possibility he’ll make the roster. As much as I’d hate to see him shoving for the Brewers, he’s a really good dude and I’m wishing the best for him.
Stock wasn’t the only former Cub picked up by the Brewers, as righty Colin Rea also agreed to a minors contract with a non-roster invite. In other news,
Jackson Clint Frazier — latched on with the Rangers as an NRI and was announced in the team’s press release under his new-old name. Speaking of Arlington, former Cubs Cole Hamels and Derek Holland threw for scouts in there on Friday.
Jeff McNeil extended
In a move that came as quite a surprise Friday evening, Jeff Passan reported that the Mets have signed their second baseman and 2022 batting champ to a four-year, $50 million extension. There’s a club option for a fifth year that would add another $13.75 million, so the Mets bought out two years of arbitration and have control over three years beyond that. So why should Cubs fans care?
Though the comps are far from perfect, this could inform the offer Jed Hoyer presents to Nico Hoerner. The Cubs came to terms with their second baseman on a $2.525 million salary for ’22, leaving Hoerner with two remaining years of arbitration eligibility. He’s five years younger than McNeil, which makes him far more valuable in terms of his athletic prime, but he’s also much less accomplished as a hitter and hasn’t proven he can stay healthy.
A four-year deal at $12.5 million AAV would be an absolute steal for Hoerner, so I have to imagine he’d be looking for something bigger than that. The Cubs would probably like to stretch the duration out beyond four years as well because, again, Hoerner will only be turning 26 in May. Would something like six years and $90 million get it done? Toss in a no-trade clause and some incentives and it could work.
Sans extension, Hoerner is probably looking at $5-6 million next season and maybe $10 million in ’25. So while he could probably make up for that on the back end in free agency, securing the back a couple years early and still having another crack at free agency in his early 30s isn’t a bad deal. The Cubs might even be willing to stretch a little further given all the money coming off the books next season.
This is the part where I ask you to provide thoughts on what a new deal for Hoerner should look like and whether you think the Cubs get it done this spring.