Mets trade for speedy outfielder Hamilton

August 2nd, 2020

NEW YORK -- Seeking to shore up their outfield depth, the Mets on Sunday acquired defensive-minded outfielder from the Giants for right-hander Jordan Humphreys.

Hamilton, who ranks third among active players with 299 stolen bases, gives the Mets a measure of athleticism and defensive depth behind Brandon Nimmo and backup Jake Marisnick, who is on the injured list nursing a strained left hamstring. The switch-hitting Hamilton batted .218 with a .564 OPS in 119 games last year for the Royals and Braves, before the Giants inked him to a Minor League deal this winter. Hamilton was in the Giants’ 60-man player pool throughout Summer Camp, but he had yet to crack their active roster.

The Mets did not immediately activate Hamilton. Nimmo is their starting center fielder, with Ryan Cordell currently serving as his primary backup.

For the Mets, Hamilton offers two main benefits: speed and defense, the latter of which has been suspect for the team so far this season. One of baseball’s top center fielders throughout the past decade, Hamilton, 29, has compiled 73 career Defensive Runs Saved at the position, the fourth most of any center fielder over that stretch.

“I had a great year in 2018 and I tell everybody -- they’re like, ‘What happened, what was the difference?’” said Mets reliever Jared Hughes, one of Hamilton’s teammates on that Reds club. “I tell them, ‘Billy was my center fielder.’ He just caught everything. He robbed the homers. Anything that I gave up that was hard-hit to the outfield, Billy was there diving for it.”

Added Hughes: “The guy’s incredible and he’s got tons of energy. He’s a good influence in the clubhouse. Everybody loves him.”

Hamilton’s speed can also potentially help the Mets in extra-inning situations, now that each inning after the ninth begins with a runner on second base.

His acquisition, however, came at significant cost. The Mets’ 14th-ranked prospect, Humphreys missed more than a full season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old returned with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, earning him a spot on the Mets’ 40-man roster. However, a roster crunch this summer prompted the Mets to designate Humphreys for assignment, precipitating the trade.

Humphreys’ addition to the 40-man roster back in November was a surprise to many in the baseball community who did not believe he would be selected in the Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected. But with pitching now at a premium throughout the Majors, Humphreys stood little chance of clearing waivers after the Mets designated him for assignment.

See you in September (maybe)

To clear additional 40-man roster space on Sunday, the Mets transferred Jed Lowrie to the 45-day injured list. That will keep Lowrie sidelined until at least Sept. 3, though it’s possible he could miss more time than that.

Lowrie, who has taken just eight plate appearances since signing a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets in January 2019, is rehabbing from PCL laxity in his left knee. He is trying to transition to a more functional knee brace so that he can play in big league games, but so far he has been unable to do so.

Healthy and ready

Before Sunday’s game, the Mets activated Hughes, whom they had signed in late June, and optioned rookie Franklyn Kilome to their alternate training site in Brooklyn.

Hughes tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after arriving in New York for Summer Camp, then spent about 8-9 days fighting off the symptoms in quarantine. He worked out in his apartment until doctors cleared him to return to the stadium.

“I feel like you see that list of symptoms and I had the majority of them, from a fever to a cough to aches to fatigue, headache, eye pain,” Hughes said. “The list goes on. It was a very difficult virus.”

Hughes said he considered not playing this season to help his wife, who is at home in Texas with the couple’s two young children, but the family ultimately agreed that he should pitch. He’ll attempt to help a bullpen that entered Sunday’s play ranked 29th in the Majors with a 6.82 ERA.

“I came to play, so here I am, and I’m better now,” Hughes said. “I can’t thank [my wife] enough, and what she’s going through with the kids without me there, she’s incredible.”

Double deal

In a separate trade on Sunday, the Mets dealt right-hander Tyler Bashlor to the Pirates for cash considerations. Bashlor, another casualty of a crammed 40-man roster, posted a 5.33 ERA from 2018-19 for the Mets. He briefly appeared on the active roster this season but did not pitch.