By HAL McCOY
All that money the Cincinnati Reds say they have to spend, well, it won’t go to outfielder Billy Hamilton. Are they saving it for the big push for a free agent starting pitcher.
Hamilton and the Cincinnati Reds are parting ways, but it is only the Reds who had the say.
Several sources are reporting today that the Reds will not tender Hamilton a contract, making the fleet outfielder a free agent, eligible to make his own deal with any team, including the Reds. The report comes on the day RedsFest opens in Cincinnati and Hamilton won’t be there.
The Reds reportedly have been trying to trade him, but had no takers, even for marginal prospects/suspects.
Hamilton, paid $4.6 million last year, is arbitration-eligible and figured to received a hefty raise, close to $6 million or more.
While the 28-year-old center fielder is a top-level defender, the Reds have been frustrated with his lack of offensive production, especially his inability to transfer the speed he uses on defense to the offensive side.
While the Reds worked diligently on improving Hamilton’s bunting skills and his propensity for hitting too many balls in the air, it hasn’t worked and he numbers steadily declined, including his base-stealing and most notably his on-base percentage.
His slash line this year was .236/.299/.327. He hit four home runs, drove in only 29, scored 74 in 153 games.
Hamilton stole 54 or more bases in his first three years, but only swiped 34 this year. Even though he had the green light to steal, he seemed reluctant to try this past season.
With his speed, he was a natural leadoff hitter, but his inability to get on base forced manager Bryan Price and interim manager Jim Riggleman to bat him eighth or ninth in the order.
In addition, with his reed-thin body that contained little meat, Hamilton spent a lot of time injured after running into walls or injuring himself while diving for balls.
With Hamilton gone, the Reds need to explore options for center field and top prospect Nick Senzel could land there, or right fielder Scott Schebler could move there, although the club has doubts about his range in the more expansive center fields in the league.
The Reds could still sign Hamilton as a free agent, if he would accept a cheaper contract.