How Carter Hawkins and Jon Lester helped sell Dansby Swanson on the Cubs
Dansby Swanson had heard plenty of sales pitches from different teams, including the Cubs.
But he wanted to filter through the fluff.
So, he picked up his phone and called a former Vanderbilt baseball player who hails from Atlanta and who also played with his brother: Cubs general manager Carter Hawkins.
“I’m pretty sure I started with, ‘Listen, man, you’re an Atlanta guy, too. You’re also a Vanderbilt guy and hopefully, we’ll be in Chicago together,’” Swanson recalled. “’I need you to give it to me as straightforward as you can about the vision and what’s ahead and who’s coming in. How are we actually going to be good?’”
He didn’t try to sugarcoat it — he didn’t promise titles or anything grand, but rather told him about his and Jed Hoyer’s vision, what they hope to build in Chicago and the winning culture they want to create.
Hawkins told Swanson about the players on the roster, the state-of-the-art facilities and technology being used to improve their players and how they plan to build a team that wins year in and year out.
“I talked to him about, ‘Hey, look, like we can’t guarantee any outcomes, but what I can guarantee is that you’re gonna be proud to be a Cub, and you’re gonna be proud to be a Cub for a long, long time,’” Hawkins said.
“I left that conversation feeling better than going into it, honestly,” Swanson said. “I know that he would shoot me straight, because [Vanderbilt baseball] coach [Tim] Corbin would probably kill both of us if we were lying to each other. But yeah, I was just extremely grateful for that.”
Hawkins’ phone call was part of a full-court press the Cubs used on Swanson.
Hoyer and Hawkins flew out to Atlanta and had lunch with Swanson and his wife, Mallory Pugh, telling them about the franchise, some of the prospects and what could be coming for the team. The group discussed it over lunch and plenty of desserts…that Swanson took home as leftovers.
“That was already a plus in my book,” Swanson joked.
But the Cubs also looked to reach Swanson on a personal level, too.
They knew he was playing for his hometown Braves and, outside of six months with Arizona when he was taken 1st overall in the draft before being traded, it was the only organization he truly knew.
So, the Cubs had their former ace and another marquee signing, Jon Lester, record a video where he chronicled his process through free agency ahead of the 2015 season. Like Swanson, Lester had spent most of his career with one franchise before reaching free agency. And like now, the Cubs were an up-and-coming team looking to add an established player to help them take the next step.
Lester’s video spoke about how hard the decision was to leave Boston and how it was difficult, but looking back on it, if he had to do it again, it would be an easy decision.
“It meant a lot to me because I’ve always appreciated competing against him and just his competitive spirit and just what he brought to the field each and every day,” Swanson said.
Swanson did his own homework, too. He looking at the Cubs’ roster, the strides players like Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, Justin Steele and Seiya Suzuki have made and will continue to make, plus the state of the Cubs farm system and he started seeing the vision Hawkins put forward.
It helped confirm to Swanson that Chicago was the right choice for him.
“Being able to combine all that, you start to look and you say, ‘This is a pretty good team with the right trajectory of going in the right direction,’” Swanson said. “Just excited to get going and for what’s ahead.”