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Inbox: Winker over Hamilton in leadoff spot?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon fields Reds fans' questions
November 21, 2017

Do you think Jesse Winker is a better option for the leadoff spot than Billy Hamilton based on his plate discipline and on-base percentage? -- Jon S., Franklin Furnace, OhioIt's a worthy question to debate. Winker excelled at getting on base during his limited big league time as a rookie

Do you think Jesse Winker is a better option for the leadoff spot than Billy Hamilton based on his plate discipline and on-base percentage?
-- Jon S., Franklin Furnace, Ohio

It's a worthy question to debate. Winker excelled at getting on base during his limited big league time as a rookie in 2017, batting .298/.375/.529 with seven home runs in 137 plate appearances. In six Minor League seasons, he's at .298/.398/.449. For his five Major League seasons, Hamilton slashes .247/.298/.334.
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Clearly the one way Hamilton easily outshines Winker is speed. Hamilton has stolen 55 or more bases each of the past four seasons. If he can't steal a base, he can disrupt pitchers and defenses and can often score from first base. But as has been said multiple times, Hamilton can't steal if he doesn't get on base. If Winker is a regular outfielder next season, perhaps the Reds could consider batting Hamilton ninth and Winker at the top of the order. That would make for an interesting combo.
I understand that Justin Turner of the Dodgers was first drafted by the Reds. He led the Dodgers this year in batting average and OBP. Who did the Reds get in a trade for Turner?
-- Tom E., El Paso, Texas

Turner was a seventh-round pick of the Reds in the 2006 Draft. During the Winter Meetings of 2008, he was one of two Minor Leaguers sent to the Orioles, along with Ryan Freel, to bring catcher Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati. Turner's career took him to the Mets from 2010-13 after he was claimed off waivers. Things didn't really click for him until he joined the Dodgers as a free agent, just before Spring Training 2014. Now 32, Turner seems to fit the late bloomer profile.
Do you think the club will make Joey Votto available for trade? He seems to be a square peg on a table full of round holes. I recognize the intangibles he provides (clubhouse, attendance, etc.), but based on his salary, are the Reds really ready to contend before another couple of seasons? Also, due to the above, he also is taking up a position that others could start their career at. Thoughts?
-- Neb, Pasadena, Calif.

The short answer is no. I'm sure the club would listen to any offer that came their way. But Votto holds all the power with a no-trade clause, and quite simply, he doesn't want to leave the Reds. Salary-wise, Votto will earn $25 million per season from 2018-23, and if he continues to produce the way he did in 2017 (two points shy of being National League MVP), he could provide fair value for that salary when the Reds are ready to contend as salaries around the Major Leagues continue to escalate. As for blocking others, who would you rather have at first base over Votto and the numbers he produced this past season?

Do you think the Reds are going to be active in the free-agent market looking for pitching help?
-- Garrett J., Virginia Beach, Va.

Reds general manager Dick Williams often uses the word "opportunistic," when it comes to how the club will approach the market. They could use a veteran that can be counted on for deep starts and to fill the innings gap amid the young pitchers and the experienced players returning from injuries. Williams happens to like the cadre of young hurlers that had some success last season in Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle and Robert Stephenson and still believes in Amir Garrett, Jackson Stephens and others. If a veteran emerges later in the offseason who can work both as a starter or long reliever -- a Scott Feldman type, if not Feldman himself -- I could see Cincinnati being active. But do not expect any large expenditure for top-tier starters or relievers.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.