Billy could be key trade chip for Reds
Speedy center fielder has 'attracted interest' in the past
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Two years away from being a free agent, center fielder Billy Hamilton could be a dynamic trade asset for the Reds because of his speed and defensive ability.
Teams like the Giants and Rangers are among the teams in need of a center fielder.
"Billy's always a guy that has attracted interest. There's always been some level of chatter about Billy. I would say that's still the case," Reds general manager Dick Williams said on Monday during the Winter Meetings, without naming teams.
Would the Reds be willing to move Hamilton?
"Billy, he's got a lot of value to us because of the young pitching staff," Williams said. "His defense helps our ERA. He's got a lot of value, and he still has that offensive upside if we can unlock it."
Hamilton, 27, is a four-time finalist for the National League Gold Glove Award and has stolen at least 56 bases each year since 2014. But he has a career .298 on-base percentage -- mostly as a leadoff hitter -- as he has yet to find consistency at the plate. He avoided arbitration last winter and signed a one-year deal worth $2.6 million, and he has two more years of eligibility remaining.
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Put it all together and that makes it difficult, possibly, to specify how other clubs might value Hamilton.
"When you talk to teams about trade scenarios, it's so subjective. The currency is players going both ways," Williams said. "It may be that they value your player differently, but it may also be that they value their own players differently. We may look at two different packages and say, 'Wow, they think much more of our player.' It may be that that we're wrong on their prospects or whatever. I don't know if that makes sense. Comparing teams' interest is really hard, because we're not all using Bitcoins."
It appears that the Reds had no imminent transactions either via trades or free agents on the first day of the Meetings. Williams indicated that the team is more interested in adding relievers than a starting pitcher. The market for bullpen help has percolated already, including a reported signing of Pat Neshek by the Phillies to a two-year contract.
Cincinnati has two spots locked down with closer Raisel Iglesias and lefty setup man Wandy Peralta. Right-handed setup man Michael Lorenzen will be given a chance to start this spring. Kevin Shackelford and Ariel Hernandez are bullpen candidates after their rookie seasons, but the Reds lack experienced arms.
"I do think we'll find some good pitching and spend some money just to supplement the pitching a little bit," Williams said. "Ideally, we'd maintain some flexibility there as to how guys are used. We think we have more starting pitching, guys that have the ability to stick as starters.
"I think we're just looking for talent that kind of complements what we have."
Williams' front-office staff has engaged with agents in talks, but nothing has advanced to the serious stage where he has gotten involved in negotiations.
As has happened in past offseasons, the Reds could make their trade acquisitions in the days after the Winter Meetings. They've often done free-agent deals in January, as the market moves more into a buyer's favor.
"We have the good fortune of being in a stable position from a payroll standpoint, from a roster standpoint. No glaring holes," Williams said. "We don't have any contracts that have to be moved. We feel like we're in a real stable position, and we can just be opportunistic."