Comparing Swanson and Arcia ahead of the upcoming Braves vs. Cubs series

The Atlanta Braves take on Dansby Swanson and the Chicago Cubs today for the first time since Dansby departed. We examine which player has been better in 2023.

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The Atlanta Braves lost their former leader and World Series Champion Dansby Swanson this past offseason. The Braves "settled" for Orlando Arcia to begin the season as the starting shortstop. Many fans believed the Braves would go get a free agent, make a splashy trade, or go with one of the two hot prospects in Vaughn Grissom or Braden Shewmake.

Instead, they surprised many people (not me) and went with the veteran part-timer Orlando Arcia. Not only did they announce Arcia would be open the season as the starting shortstop, but they also signed him to an extension! The Braves locked Arcia up on a three-year deal worth $7.3 million just before opening day. Meanwhile, Dansby Swanson signed a seven-year, $177 million contract with the Cubbies.

Swanson earned the big contract but he just wasn't worth the risky investment to the Braves. Now that the Braves are meeting the Cubs for the first time since Dansby Swanson left us, we take a look at how the two shortstops have compared thus far in 2023.

Swanson vs. Arcia: 2023 Salaries

Dansby Swanson: $14,000,000

Orlando Arcia: $2,300,000

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Swanson vs. Arcia: Defensive Statistics

Orlando Arica is no slouch with the glove. He ranks in the 94th percentile in Outs Above Average (OAA) and has two defensive runs saved. Two rDRS means he's worth two defensive runs saved more than the average shortstop. Being better than the average major-league shortstop is incredibly difficult and quite an accomplishment. If you need a refresher on some of these defensive metrics, click here.

Dansby is a former Gold Glove Award winner and appears to be having the best defensive season of his career. He ranks in the 100th percentile in OAA. His 12 defensive runs saved is the most by a shortstop in the National League. Again, to be that far ahead of the rest of the pack at one of the most demanding defensive positions in baseball is a heck of an accomplishment.

Fangraphs has a statistic called "Def" which takes positional adjustments out of the equation and just gives every fielder a defensive runs saved value based on all players. So, an average shortstop with zero defensive runs saved would have a much higher "Def" score since the average shortstop is much better than most other positions.

In terms of their Def ratings, Arcia has the 19th-highest score in all of baseball at 7.6. Dansby ranks fourth in the league with a 13.5.

Both players scored very well here, but Dansby is playing Gold-Glove quality defensive. Dansby wins this round.

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Swanson vs. Arcia: Offensive Stats

Dansby Swanson: .265/.348/.451, 11 R, 16 2B, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 4 SB, .799 OPS, 112 OPS+

Orlando Arcia: 2.1 rWAR, .296/.350/.449, 45 R, 13 2B, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB, .798 OPS, 110 OPS+

Things are pretty close on offense. When you consider that Dansby has 65 more at-bats than Arcia this season, things get even closer.

Arcia hits a double every 23 at-bats. Swanson hits a double every 23 at-bats.

Arcia has a homer every 27 at-bats. Swanson hits a homer every 23 at-bats.

They are one point off each other in OPS with Swanson at .799 and Arcia at .798. Both are well above league average.

Swanson has six more runs scored than Arcia, but he's played in nine more games than Orlando. On top of that, he hits higher in the lineup. The Braves offense is so potent, it really doesn't matter where you hit in the order. You are gonna score if you get on base.

Arcia has the advantage in terms of batting average. He puts the ball in play an awful lot. Arcia is in the 70th percentile in K% while Dansby is toward the bottom in the 32nd percentile of the league. Arcia boasts a .296 average while Dansby is at .265.

I don't think there is any reason to declare a clear winner on offense since Dansby has played a few more games than Arcia. The OPS scores are so close, they could switch spots after the series. These two shortstops basically have identical OBPs and SLGs.

Conclusion: Who is Better, Dansby Swanson or Orlando Arica?

Who is better? Easy answer if you are Braves fan. Orlando Arcia.

Dansby might have the edge in WAR thanks to his defensive contributions. He may be the better overall player. However, it is close enough that I think any Braves fan in their right mind would take Arcia's value.

Here is the cost per Win Above Replacement for each player.

We are 65% of the way through the season. That means Dansby has earned about $9,100,000 of his $14,000,000 so far. Likewise, Arcia has earned 1,495,000 of his 2,300,000.

Dansby Swanson has a 3.8 rWAR. That means it costs the Cubs $2.4 million per WAR.

Orlando Arcia has a 2.1 rWAR. That has cost the Braves just $711,904 per WAR.

Overall Winners: The Atlanta Braves and Orlando Arcia.

I'm not biased.