ATLANTA -- Accounting for the possibility Ender Inciarte will miss the rest of the regular season, the Braves claimed outfielder Billy Hamilton off waivers from the Royals on Monday.
Hamilton will not provide much at the plate, as evidenced by the .544 OPS he produced over 305 plate appearances for Kansas City this year. But the 28-year-old outfielder, who is two years removed from a fourth straight 50-steal season, could still strengthen the bench as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive replacement.
The Braves will pay Hamilton approximately $900,000 over the remainder of this season. They will also be responsible for the $1 million buyout attached to his $7.25 million option for the 2020 season. It’s a steep cost to pay a backup for a couple months. But this is the price general manager Alex Anthopoulos is willing to pay to give his team every shot possible to enjoy a successful postseason run.
Per Statcast, Hamilton’s sprint speed still ranks elite at 29.5 feet per second, slightly down from the 30.1 ft./sec mark he produced both of the past two seasons. His six Outs Above Average ranks 15th among outfielders with at least 50 opportunities, indicating he’s still an above average defender.
Inciarte suffered a Grade 2 right hamstring strain on Friday and will likely not return before the latter half of September. Other Braves outfielders currently on the injured list include Nick Markakis, who will miss at least three more weeks with a fractured left wrist, and Austin Riley, who is expected to begin a Minor League rehab assignment later this week.
Hamilton will join an outfield mix that currently consists of Ronald Acuna Jr., Adam Duvall, Matt Joyce and Rafael Ortega. Until Riley returns, Charlie Culberson could continue to get occasional starts in the outfield to account for the struggles Joyce, Ortega and Hamilton have had against left-handed pitchers.
While Acuna has looked most comfortable in right field and will eventually find that to be his long-term position, he’s had to transition back to center field to account for Inciarte’s absence. But Hamilton’s presence will give the Braves the chance to shift Acuna to one of the corner outfield spots during the latter innings.
Right-handed pitcher Bryse Wilson was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to create a spot on the active roster for Hamilton. The Braves created a spot on their 40-man roster by shifting Jacob Webb to the 60-day injured list.