Then there was 1: What Dansby Swanson’s free agency means for the Cubs’ offseason

Carlos Correa agreeing to a record-setting deal with the Giants made Swanson the last of the Big 4 free agent shortstops left on the market.

SHARE Then there was 1: What Dansby Swanson’s free agency means for the Cubs’ offseason
Dansby Swanson is the last remaining free agent shortstop of the Big 4 this offseason.

Dansby Swanson is the last remaining free agent shortstop of the Big 4 this offseason.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If the Cubs are going to sign a top free-agent shortstop this offseason, it’ll have to be Dansby Swanson.

The Cubs had been showing interest in Swanson entering the winter meetings, before any of the Big 4 had signed. But as of Wednesday evening, the other three had found new homes, and Swanson was the belle of the ball.

Waiting out the market has only brought good news for Swanson. Trea Turner signed first, agreeing to an 11-year, $300 million contract with the Phillies last week. Xander Bogaerts was next, signing with the Padres on an 11-year, $280 million deal. Then, late Tuesday night news broke that Carlos Correa had agreed to a 13-year, $350 million contract with the Giants.

Correa’s contract was the largest ever for a shortstop in terms of guaranteed money, surpassing the 10-year $341 million deal Francisco Lindor signed with the Mets in 2021.

More good news for Swanson, who got married to World Cup champion and Chicago Red Stars standout Mallory Pugh over the weekend. Not great news for the Cubs’ “intelligent spending” plan.

The Cubs have been active on the free-agent shortstop market, also taking meetings with Correa and Bogaerts’ agent, Scott Boras. Even early on, Swanson seemed to be the most likely of the four to land with the Cubs. But as the other three top shortstops have found landing places, Swanson has gained suitors.

The Twins are in the market for a shortstop after losing Correa. The Red Sox are looking for a shortstop after losing Bogaerts. And the Dodgers are down a shortstop after losing Turner. According to multiple reports, all three teams — plus the Braves, with whom Swanson has spent his whole MLB career, and others — are also in the Swanson sweepstakes.

In recent history, the Cubs have been reluctant to offer contracts approaching double digits. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer hasn’t signed a free agent to seven-plus years — in his current role or as general manager under Theo Epstein — since Jason Heyward inked his eight-year, $184 million deal December 2015.

The shortstop market, however, has swung into double-digit depths. Turner, Bogaerts and Correa will all be over 40 when their contracts expire. The Cubs have had to weigh whether the payoff in peak years would be worth breaking from their recent track record.

Meanwhile, the Phillies and Padres, both in smaller media markets than No. 3 Chicago, have pushed their wealth to the middle of the table in this fast-paced offseason. Their approach may not exemplify “intelligent spending,” but it sure does signal a commitment to winning.

If the Cubs don’t sign Swanson, homegrown middle infielder Nico Hoerner has proven himself on offense and defense at shortstop. But the whiff would also show how much more work they need to do to open their next championship window.

Cubs make Bellinger official

The Cubs on Wednesday made official center fielder Cody Bellinger’s one-year deal with a mutual 2024 option. The team did not disclose the terms of Bellinger’s contract, but a source confirmed last week that it was worth $17.5 million guaranteed.

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