The Reds are listening to offers on all of their players, including Billy Hamilton, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required and recommended). There is, of course, a distinction to be made between entertaining offers and shopping Hamilton around, but Cincinnati’s openness should pique the interest of a number of clubs looking for a center field upgrade. Hamilton had a breakout year in 2016, slashing .260/.321/.343 with three homers while delivering his third consecutive season with 55-plus stolen bases. Those rate stats are far from elite, but Hamilton is an elite defensive center fielder and far and away the best baserunner in Major League Baseball, so progressing from a sub-.300 OBP to even a roughly league-average mark is significant. Hamilton swiped 58 bags in just 460 plate appearances last year and was caught a mere eight times. He also drew a +15 mark from Defensive Runs Saved and +13 from Ultimate Zone Rating in just 119 games.
As Olney notes, Hamilton is controllable for three more years and may not have much control left by the time the Reds are good again. There’s certainly some logic behind trading him, though the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan hears they’d need to be “really, really motivated by an offer” to part with Hamilton (Twitter link).
More from Olney…
- Mike Napoli is seeking a three-year contract in free agency, reports Olney later in the above-linked piece. The Indians, meanwhile, prefer to keep their offers to retain Napoli to one year in length. At 35 years of age and in a market stocked with first base/DH types — Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, Brandon Moss, Steve Pearce, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison, etc. — it’s tough to see Napoli landing three guaranteed years even after hitting 34 homers. Napoli’s .239/.335/.465 line was solid but not elite. and his baserunning and defense both rated poorly in 2016 as well.
- Also from Olney, execs with other teams tell him that they believe the White Sox “are serious about their intention to trade Chris Sale.” Chicago has told rival clubs they’re willing to trade anyone with fewer than four years of team control remaining, which would mean Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson are off the table, but names like Sale, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and David Robertson are all in play. Sale’s name figures to dominate next week’s Winter Meetings, and the wide range of options available to Chicago GM Rick Hahn should mean the White Sox will be connected to plenty of interesting trade scenarios.
- In a separate column (Insider subscription again required and once again highly recommended), Olney writes about the ongoing struggle in the collective bargaining negotiations, which have a 12:01am ET deadline on Thursday. Per Olney’s report, differing styles of negotiation between new MLBPA head Tony Clark and the team of Commissioner Rob Manfred and chief legal officer Dan Halem have led to a slower pace in talks. And, the owners’ recent concession of dropping the demand for an international draft hasn’t really accelerated talks in the manner they hoped it would. Olney adds even more to the CBA story through a series of three tweets, reporting that the competitive balance tax is the “last big hurdle” for MLB and the MLBPA to clear in negotiations, but there’s growing pessimism about a deal getting done. Agents to whom Olney has spoken are “perplexed” by the impasse and feel the Union needs to communicate to the players more effectively why there could be a work stoppage and how it’d impact them.