Reds fielding more calls for speedy Hamilton
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Interest in Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton appears to have increased during the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, the Giants have made the strongest pursuit to this point.
However, two sources told MLB.com on Tuesday night that a trade did not appear to be close. One of the sources noted that the Giants had a "semi" strong proposal, but did not think something would happen.
Reds general manager Dick Williams declined to get into specifics.
"We've heard from a bunch of teams on a bunch of players, including Billy," Williams said. "It's just at this point teams expressing interest and chatter. That's about it."
The Giants are in need of a good defensive center fielder at spacious AT&T Park, and Hamilton would fit that bill as a four-time Gold Glove Award finalist with exceptional speed. However, his value is harder to calculate on the market because he has struggled to reach his full potential as a hitter and owns a lifetime .298 on-base percentage.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy did not conceal the fact that he likes Hamilton.
"There's few players in the game like Billy Hamilton," Bochy said in his session with reporters. "I mean, it's disruptive speed. We talked about it earlier. That's how fast he is. He's one of those guys they know is probably going to go, and he still has a good chance of stealing a base. So when you talk about the gifts and talents of a Billy Hamilton, there are few guys that can do that in the game. He's entertaining. The Reds have a nice player there."
The Reds wouldn't mind opening a spot for prospect Jesse Winker, a corner outfielder. But moving Hamilton wouldn't address that issue specifically since the club has Scott Schebler in right field and Adam Duvall in left field.
If Hamilton departed, the Reds do not have a comparable replacement to man center field, but Schebler could move there.
"I'm not sure I'd feel really comfortable counting on him to be an everyday center fielder for the full season," Williams said of Schebler. "But I think he's athletic enough to play it, and I think he could do it if he put his mind to it and we worked with him."
Williams doesn't feel compelled to deal Hamilton, who has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before he can become a free agent. Manager Bryan Price is prepared to work with a four-man rotation among the three outfield spots.
"The advantage is you always have a player that can help you on the bench, be it with power, on-base, foot speed, stolen base, defense," Price said. "There's going to be somebody on the bench every day that can impact the game late. I think that's something that we've lacked to a certain degree over the last few years.
"They'll still get a lot of playing time, but I think we're a better team with a strong four-man outfield than a strong three-man outfield."