The Cubs promised they’d compete next season, and they sent a message backing up that claim on Saturday.
They agreed to a seven-year, $177 million contract with All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson, a source confirmed. The deal includes a full no-trade clause.
Swanson had plenty of suitors as the last man available out of a quartet of top-tier free agent shortstops. The other three shortstops signed in the span of about a week, all for at least 11 years and $280 million.
Swanson is poised to give the Cubs an offensive boost. He doesn’t have as long of an offensive track record as Carlos Correa, Trea Turner or Xander Bogaerts. But Swanson, 28, had the best season of his career in 2022, showing a high upside just before hitting free agency. He earned his first All-Star selection this past season, won his first Gold Glove, and slashed .277/.329/.447.
The year before, he helped lead the Braves to a World Series title.
Swanson’s defensive prowess makes him an especially good fit for the Cubs. With him at shortstop, homegrown middle infielder Nico Hoerner is expected to move back to second base, where he was a Gold Glove finalist two years ago.
Playing Swanson and Hoerner side by side gives the Cubs a standout duo up the middle as the ban on defensive shifts goes into place for 2023.
“It’s really important to have good defense up the middle,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said earlier this month. “A middle of the infield player, you can’t hide in the shift anymore. So, I think that’s going to expose those guys even more, and it makes athleticism and defense in the middle of the infield that much more important.”
Swanson also has ties to Chicago through his wife, Red Stars and US Women’s National Team star Mallory Pugh. The pair married last weekend.
Both Hoyer and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts have talked about the team’s financial flexibility leading into this offseason. But entering this weekend, the club had yet to make a statement signing.
The Cubs had fortified their outfield by adding Cody Bellinger on a one-year deal ($17.5 million guaranteed with a mutual option for 2024), hoping they’ll be able to help him tap back into the offensive success that made him an MVP in 2019, and expecting his defensive skillset to give them a boost either way.
They’d begun filling out their pitching staff, agreeing to a four-year, $68 million deal with starter Jameson Taillon, and signing veteran reliever Brad Boxburger to a one-year, $2.8 million contract with a mutual 2024 option.
It was Swanson’s signing, however, that showed the Cubs were truly making a push into a new phase of their rebuild, shrinking the gap between a 74-88 season in 2022 and their next championship window.
Swanson’s contract makes him the second-highest paid free agent signing in Cubs history, both by total guaranteed money and average annual value. He trails only Jason Heyward (eight years, $184 million) in the first category, and Jon Lester ($25.83 million AAV) in the second.
Still, the fact that the Cubs were able to land Swanson on a seven-year deal, rather than venturing into the double digits, lines up with Hoyer’s “intelligent spending” mantra.
The Cubs have more holes to fill, in the bullpen and behind the plate, and more depth to add. But they made their splash signing early, just in time for the holiday season.