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Speedy Hamilton could be on Royals' radar

Center fielder was non-tendered last week by Reds
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- One name you likely will hear associated with the Royals during the upcoming Winter Meetings is speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton, 28, was non-tendered by the Reds last week, and certainly there were financial issues at the heart of the decision. Hamilton posted just a .299 on-base percentage in 2018, and in five full seasons he's never had an OPS higher than .664.

KANSAS CITY -- One name you likely will hear associated with the Royals during the upcoming Winter Meetings is speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton, 28, was non-tendered by the Reds last week, and certainly there were financial issues at the heart of the decision. Hamilton posted just a .299 on-base percentage in 2018, and in five full seasons he's never had an OPS higher than .664.

Even with Hamilton's elite speed and defense -- he topped 50 steals in four straight seasons from 2014-17 -- it was hard for the Reds to justify his $4.6 million salary in 2018 during his second year of arbitration.

Yet there is a feeling with Royals officials that Hamilton's skill set might play better at spacious Kauffman Stadium as opposed to the Reds' band box of Great American Ball Park.

Hamilton is simply dynamic defensively. He ranked fith in the Major Leagues with 16 Outs Above Average, a metric that determines how many outs an outfielder has saved.

Video: Must C Catch: Hamilton robs Carpenter of a home run

Under general manager Dayton Moore, the Royals have always valued defense, perhaps more than other clubs, making Hamilton a potential fit for the right price in Kansas City.

"I will just say that I won't comment on any potential interest in free agents," Moore told MLB.com. "There is no value in making such statements public."

But don't be surprised if the Royals keep a close eye on the Hamilton market.

Hamilton's camp, it is believed, is curious about the Royals' center field situation and views it as a potential fit.

The Royals' top two choices for the job are Brett Phillips and Brian Goodwin.

Phillips, who was acquired last season in the Mike Moustakas trade to Milwaukee, already has displayed tremendous defensive ability and great awareness on the bases. He has an extremely strong arm and great instincts in the field.

Video: BAL@KC: Phillips tracks down a fly ball on the track

However, after flashing potential offensively in 2017 with the Brewers by hitting four home runs with a .799 OPS in 37 games, Phillips, 24, batted just .188 in 36 games with the Royals after being acquired in July. He also struck out 50 times in 123 plate appearances, many of them looking, which puzzled and concerned the Royals' coaching staff.

Goodwin, 28, is a safer choice. He is respectable defensively, and he hit .266 with a .732 OPS in 27 games after being acquired in a July deal with the Nationals.

But as it stands now, the Royals will enter Spring Training with a center field job that is definitely open, creating potential for a Hamilton acquisition. Stay tuned.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Billy Hamilton