State of the Cubs: Shortstop in solid hands with Dansby Swanson
The 2023 season is over and after narrowly missing out on the playoffs, the Cubs are staring down a pivotal winter. Before the stove starts heating up, we analyze the Cubs depth chart at each position and how Jed Hoyer’s front office might address the team’s needs.
Next up: Shortstop
- Dansby Swanson
- Nico Hoerner
- Christopher Morel
- Miles Mastrobuoni
The Cubs made Dansby Swanson the crown jewel of their free agent class last offseason and he sure lived up to the billing. Swanson was elite defensively — his 20 Outs Above Average (OAA) were tops in baseball and he was named a Gold Glove finalist at shortstop. He also was a solid bat for the Cubs, posting a .744 OPS with 22 home runs, 80 RBI and a 4.9 fWAR.
But even beyond that, Swanson was a leader for a Cubs team that was looking to turn the corner from a rebuild into being a serious contender.
“He’s focused on us winning and not just this team, but the organization,” David Ross said in September. “I mean, [president of baseball operations] Jed [Hoyer] walks by around the trade deadline, he was in his ear [about not selling].
“He’s around in the food room talking about, you know, ‘Hey, do you like to guard the line with [a] 1-run lead and play no doubles? Hey, what about this cut off situation here, ball down the line, get it to me in this spot.’ … When I keep saying wired the right way, that’s just like mentally, he thinks about the right things. He’s thinking about winning plays, winning situations.”
Swanson was a key voice in Hoyer’s ear at the deadline and it won’t be any different in the offseason, either.
“I’m sure we’re gonna have some conversations,” Swanson said at the end of the year. “If anybody knows me, I’m pretty open with my opinions when it comes to stuff like that. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of conversations over the next however long about it all.”
They won’t have to worry about the shortstop position, though. Swanson missed just two games from 2020 through 2022 but landed on the IL for the first time in 4 years this season. Defensively, the Cubs hardly skipped a beat. Nico Hoerner, who was one of the better defenders at the position in 2022, slid over to short in his absence.
If the Cubs and Swanson want to lighten his load a little bit in the early parts of the regular season, Hoerner can shift over to the spot and Miles Mastrobuoni, Nick Madrigal or Christopher Morel can man second. Mastrobuoni and Morel also played shortstop at points this season.
That early rest in a season could be beneficial for Swanson, who hit just .190 with runners in scoring position, and .161 overall, over his final 14 games of the season.
“I know he regrets some big clutch at bats at the end of the year,” Hoyer said at his end-of-season press conference. “I think he probably feels like he wore down a little bit physically. And that’s something we’ll work on. But you know, as a free agent signing to come in here and be even better than advertised is a hard thing to do.”
There’s no question who the current and future shortstop of the Chicago Cubs is — Swanson has that covered. The Cubs also are in an enviable position to have Hoerner as a backup if the need should arise.
At the minor league level, the Cubs have plenty of prospects with intriguing resumes. Their 2023 first round pick Matt Shaw quickly ascended to Double-A this season and could be one of the Cubs’ top prospects next season. At the lower levels, Jefferson Rojas (.749 OPS, 7 HR at Low-A Myrtle Beach) and Josh Rivera (2023 third round pick, .722 OPS at High-A South Bend) are some names to keep an eye on.
Shortstop is Swanson’s and the Cubs will have elite play at the position for years to come, provided he stays healthy. If Swanson is hurt, the Cubs have a ready-made fill-in with Hoerner behind him to provide some quality assurance.
State of the Cubs series