The Bringer of Rain is gone, and he’ll likely never wear the Tomahawk across his chest ever again. Like many Braves fans, I felt dead inside the second the news broke of Josh Donaldson signing with the Twins. While it wasn’t the worst-case scenario of Donaldson signing with Minnesota. It certainly still hurts to see a fan favorite and big bat leave for the frigid air of Minneapolis. But, this doesn’t mean hope is lost for the Braves to put together the best infield in the National League. And that is WITHOUT trading away prospects for Arenado and/or Bryant. With the likes of Dansby Swanson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman, the Braves’ infield can still be as formidable as ever.
While wholeheartedly supporting trades for both Bryant and/or Arenado, I know the prospect cost may be too great to swallow. That goal is to be in a state of continually replenishing the MLB team with homegrown talent while competing at an elite level. Only adding complementary pieces as needed along the way.
That’s what the Braves accomplished by signing Adeiny Hechavarria to a one year, one million dollar deal. If the Braves acquire Puig, Castellanos, or Ozuna, they can be a force in the NL East and finally do as Brian Snitker said and “kick [the door] in” in October. But the question of the gaping hole at third base looms large over Trust Bank Park after Donaldson’s departure. Fans won’t feel right about this coming season until it is filled.
What The Braves Can Do
In 1990, the Braves drafted a shortstop out of DeLand, Florida, with the #1 pick in the MLB Draft. That shortstop gradually transitioned from playing short to playing third, and he quickly became one of the best third basemen in MLB history. That third baseman, of course, was Chipper Jones. Unless Austin Riley has figured out his breaking ball problem during the offseason, I think that it’d be in the best interest of the team to call upon another Braves product to make the transition from short to third.
That Brave is Dansby Swanson. While I am a proud Dansby Swanson apologist, I am by no means saying that Dansby is the second coming of Chipper. What I am saying, though, is that Dansby, when healthy, is a solid player and would provide stability in a position that has been nothing short of volatile since Chipper retired. Dansby has the range and athleticism to easily make the hot corner his home, especially under the coaching of fielding guru, Ron Washington.
Before a mid-season heel injury last year, Dansby looked like the player we thought he was in 2017. By the All-Star Break, Dansby held the franchise record of 57 RBIs by a shortstop before the All-Star Break. Passing Edgar Renteria’s previous record of 45. Dansby was seeing the ball well, coming up with clutch hits, hitting home runs, and playing incredible defense. He was en route to a 25/25 season while hitting out of the two-hole. After coming back from injury, Dansby struggled to pick up where he left off the remainder of the regular season. He was able to heat up again in the postseason as the quartet of he, Acuna, Albies, and Duvall were the only consistent bats in the lineup for the Braves all series.
The Risk of Putting Dansby Swanson at Third
Of course, moving Dansby to third may come with setbacks. Those setbacks are likely worth the risk. Adeiny takes over as the starting shortstop, and as seen towards the end of last season, he and Ozzie are spectacular up the middle. Adeiny even showed semblance growth at the plate under the tutelage of Kevin Seitzer batting .328 with four home runs in his 24 games as a Brave last season. Hechavarría would be more than able to hold the six-hole down just fine. Easily sharing the workload with Dansby whenever Riley or Camargo get reps at third.
But what about power? Dansby has shown more power in his bat with each season he’s played. Blasting three more bombs over the fence in nine fewer games compared to 2018. A full season from Dansby would likely result in 20 HR seasons, if not more. But, I don’t think the Braves should rely on him being healthy a full season. This only works if the Braves get another right-handed bat to protect Freddie. As of writing, there are three right-handed power bats on the market; Ozuna, Castellanos, and Puig. Filling the last roster spot with one of these players is essential for the Braves to compete in 2020. That is true even if Dansby does fill the hole at third. If they don’t, then all the additions to the bullpen will have been for nothing.
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