When Dansby Swanson arrived at Nashville International Airport on Jan. 22, he quickly made his way toward the exit while doing everything he could to remain oblivious to how his beloved Atlanta Falcons were doing in the NFC Championship Game, which had started 40 minutes before his flight landed.
“I was walking with my head down so I couldn’t see anything,” Swanson said. “I had my fingers in my ears so I couldn’t hear anything. I didn’t want to know anything.”
Swanson, who is Atlanta’s top prospect and the No. 4-ranked prospect in baseball, was in this situation because he had spent the previous day soaking in the splendor of witnessing his first basketball game at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Braves shortstop described himself as “a kid in a candy store” when this opportunity arose. Consequently, he booked his travel while forgetting about the possibility that the Falcons might be playing during a portion of his return flight for cheap China jerseys.
Fortunately, Swanson successfully avoided receiving any updates before he returned to his Nashville residence to watch the entirety of the NFC Championship Game, which he had recorded. Swanson caught up to live action midway through the third quarter, then basked in the glory as the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl with a convincing 44-21 win over the Green Bay Packers.
“I was so ecstatic,” Swanson said. “I get so intense when I watch games, especially big games with teams I’m passionate about. I was going nuts, to say the least.”
Swanson weighed his excitement and disbelief for approximately an hour before he booked a flight to Houston for this weekend’s Super Bowl. He’ll be accompanied by his childhood friend Logan Marshall, who was still feeling some disbelief even after Swanson received their tickets in the mail earlier this week.
The Braves have already significantly altered their rotation, and they are not comfortable with the Rays’ current asking price for Archer or what the White Sox are seeking for Quintana. So it might be easy to assume neither of these pitchers will be in Atlanta’s rotation at the start of the season. But in order to do so with cheap jerseys from China, you must also ignore the reality that it has never been wise to make assumptions about what the always aggressive Coppolella might do.
Though neither Quintana nor Archer would provide the Braves the ace they sought during their early and brief pursuit of Chris Sale, both can legitimately be described as front-line starters with attractive contracts.
Quintana has made at least 32 starts each of the past four seasons, totaling 129. His 3.35 ERA in that span ranks 21st among all qualified Major League starters and seventh among all left-handers. Accounting for the two option years in the 27-year-old’s contract, he would be owed an average of $9.21 million over the next four seasons.
Archer has totaled the third-most strikeouts over the past two seasons (trailing only Max Scherzer and Sale) and despite being damaged by the long ball more frequently this past year, he has posted a 3.52 ERA while totaling 99 starts over the past three seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander will make an average of $7.7 million over the next five seasons.
The Reds’ current longest-tenured player has full no-trade protection because of his status as a 10-and-5 player — 10 years in the Majors, the past five with the same club.
Phillips batted .291/.320/.416 with 11 home runs and 64 RBIs while playing 141 games last season. He has become a fan favorite in Cincinnati, which perhaps was part of his motivation to turn down the Braves, despite being from nearby Stone Mountain, Ga.
During the Winter Meetings last month, Phillips sidestepped questions about whether he would accept a trade out of Cincinnati.
“Honestly I haven’t really thought about anything,” Phillips said on Dec. 5. “All I know is I’m the starting second baseman of the Cincinnati Reds, as of right now. I’m happy just to have a job. I’ll just go from there. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. The only thing I know is I’m still in the Major Leagues. I’m playing baseball for the Cincinnati Reds with Chinese jerseys. I love my city. I’m happy where I’m at. I can’t really predict the future.”