The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal wrote earlier this week about what he’s hearing so far in the offseason ($), and professed a belief that the Braves are unlikely to sign any of the major free agent shortstops if they don’t get a deal done with Dansby Swanson. If that is indeed the case, and it’s Swanson-or-bust in free agency, it behooves us to examine shortstop options that could be available on the trade market.
In the same article, Rosenthal does mention that he doesn’t think the Brewers are likely to trade Adames, but the Brewers do appear to be open to selling some of their players, so he is worth at least taking a look at.
Adames was one of the best shortstops in the game in 2022, although a tier below the superstar level. He has been a solidly above average bat for the last three seasons (109-126 wRC+) with good power. Defense is a bit of a question for Adames, as he was fantastic in 2022 and in 2019 (94th and 97th percentile in OAA), but bad to awful in 2018, 2020, and 2021 (7th, 30th, and 7th percentile in OAA, respectively).
If you assume roughly a 115 wRC+, Adames can be anything from a roughly 3-win player to a 4.5-5 win player, depending of the defense. This is a pretty wide range, which speaks to the vast difference in defensive value he’s shown from year to year, but a valuable player either way. With two years of arbitration left, an Adames trade would be prized, and it’s worth questioning whether the Braves have the prospect pool to even trade for Adames without dipping into the major league team.
Ha Seong Kim
Kim is probably the most realistic option on this list, but its availability is a big question. The Padres have Fernando Tatis Jr. coming back, but he is an injury risk and has been moved off of shortstop before, so who knows what AJ Preller and company have in mind for the shortstop position. With that being said, Preller loves to make trades and if they plan on Tatis going back to short, Kim could be available.
After a rough debut season at the plate, Kim put together a solidly average season offensively over nearly 600 plate appearances. He also improved slightly over the season, so he could have a little bit more offensive upside left in him. Offense isn’t Kim’s calling card though.
Kim is a legitimately great defender, with a 83rd percentile OAA in 2021 over a smaller sample and a 95th percentile OAA in 2022 over a much larger one. While Kim may not ooze superstar potential at the plate, great defense with average-to-above offense is a valuable combination, especially with good baserunning on top. Kim is essentially a slightly better version of pre-2022 Dansby Swanson’s results (but not Swanson’s inputs). He is under team control for two more seasons at a very reasonable and guaranteed $7 million per season, with a mutual option for one additional year after that. This wouldn’t be a cheap trade, but wouldn’t raid the farm either, and trades with the Padres have often been anything but straightforward on a value basis anyway.
Jazz Chisholm Jr.
This is an exceedingly unlikely option in my view, because Jazz is a very good young player playing for a division rival, but the Marlins have never seemed particularly fond of Jazz (though Ronald Acuña Jr. is quite a fan), so who knows. Don Mattingly, who clashed with Chisholm in the clubhouse, is also gone. Chisholm has an enticing four years of team control left, so even if he is available, it would cost a pretty penny. I also always wanted a player named Jazz on the Braves, because it’s a pretty awesome name.
Chisholm is a stretch defensively to work at shortstop, but he was rated as a good shortstop as a prospect, so it is possible that there could be a good defensive shortstop left in there. He was very bad as a shortstop in 2021, but he was very good at second base, so you could also consider putting him at second and moving Ozzie Albies to shortstop. It is worth mentioning that he was fairly error-prone defensively in 2021 and he cleaned that up some in 2022, so while errors are a very flawed defensive metric, it is possible that he is better than his 2021 defensive sample indicated at shortstop, which was a season riddled with errors for Chisholm. Overall, Chisholm is probably a bad defensive shortstop based on what we know right now, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the sample for us to be confident in that assessment.
Defensive questions aside, Chisholm does have serious offensive upside. He was a very highly rated prospect for a reason and showed it in the beginning of the 2022 season, posting a 139 wRC+ (that was inflated by some xwOBA overperformance) before he got hurt. Chisholm has improved as a hitter in each of his first three major league seasons and has a ton of talent, including lightning-fast speed and real power. If the Marlins are willing to listen at a reasonable price (which is a big if), Chisholm might be worth the defensive and injury-related risks. However, it’s not clear what the Braves can even dangle to get Chisholm from a division rival.
If the Braves don’t feel that Vaughn Grissom is ready and are not comfortable with the floor set by Orlando Arcia, Amed Rosario could be a stopgap option. Once one of the top prospects in baseball, Rosario has never really lived up to that billing, but has been a serviceable, if unspectacular shortstop. Rosario sets a solid floor at the position offensively and is a good baserunner, although he is a really bad defensive shortstop. With only his last year of arbitration left before he hits free agency, this would not be an expensive trade, although Elvis Andrus would be a free agent option that could serve as a similar stopgap without the prospect cost.
One fun thing about Rosario is that usually the Steamer projection system heavily discounts players like Dansby Swanson who are coming off elite defensive seasons. But, in Rosario’s case, Steamer thinks Rosario is going to be better than ever before, because it heavily regresses his consistently poor defense.