According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Cincinnati Reds are listening to offers on everyone, including center fielder Billy Hamilton. It’s not terribly surprising that the Reds are willing to listen to offers on everyone. Every team should be willing to listen to offers on any player, even if that player is Mike Trout. While it’s unlikely that another team will meet the needed return for such a player, you just never know.
Here’s what Olney has to say about Hamilton (there’s more, but this part really stuck out to me):
For a big-market team with payroll and resource flexibility, Hamilton could be an incredible and devastating weapon, because of his once-in-a-generation baserunning skills. He could be used as a starter on some days.
But on other days — depending on the matchups — he could be used offensively in the same way that a closer is used to impact games, in being placed in high-leverage situations as a pinch-runner.
Yes, Billy Hamilton can be an incredible and devastating weapon. Do you remember what he did in September of 2013 when he first came up? The Reds used him almost exclusively off of the bench late in games as a pinch runner and he just made fools of pitcher/catcher combos and ran wild on them. Not that what he’s done in the three years since then hasn’t been impressive on the bases, stealing 115 bases while being caught just 16 times in the last two years (88% success rate).
The real thing that gets lost here for Olney is where he speaks about how a team acquiring him would use him. Essentially as a 4th or 5th outfielder that pinch runs a lot of days. While that’s probably more usage than most 4th/5th outfielders get, the issue becomes why would a team give up a lot for that kind of player if that’s their plan of usage for him?
The Reds aren’t going to trade Billy Hamilton for “good back up outfielder” prices. He’s simply too valuable to them to do that. If the Reds are going to trade Billy Hamilton, who is cheap and under team control for three more seasons before hitting free agency, they are going to want real value in return for him. The two things just don’t match up.
That’s not to say that a team wouldn’t be interested in Billy Hamilton as an every day player. He made strides offensively in 2016, which is where he had struggled in the past. Toss in the defense and the baserunning and he’s a legitimate quality starting player.
Trading Billy Hamilton is one where you can argue it’s both a good or a bad idea for the organization. The return, of course, will make or break such a deal. It is good to hear that the Reds are at least willing to listen on anyone. But, if Olney’s idea is the kind of deals that teams are calling about, keep Billy Hamilton roaming center field in Cincinnati and terrorizing the National League Central teams on the bases.