The Braves have claimed outfielder Billy Hamilton off waivers from the Royals, per a club announcement. The Atlanta organization will be responsible for the remainder of Hamilton’s $4.25MM salary along with a $1MM buyout on a mutual option.
It’s a fairly significant price to pay, but understandable under the circumstances. The Braves have lost their two best left-handed-hitting outfield options, Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte, to injuries that may not heal by the end of the season. Lacking the ability to strike a trade for a MLB contract, the club had limited avenues for acquiring a replacement. The
As we noted when Inciarte’s injury arose, Hamilton is in the same general sub-category of player. Both are speedy, defensive-oriented center fielders who hit from the left side. If Inciarte is something of an archetype, Hamilton is an extreme version of the class. Hamilton has been an exceedingly valuable fielder and baserunner, though he has minimal power and has rarely reached base at palatable rates.
This year, Hamilton’s bat has sunk even further. At the time of his departure from the K.C. roster, he had produced 305 plate appearances of 44 wRC+ output. He’s still valued as an excellent defender and baserunner, though there has been a bit of erosion in Hamilton’s most notable physical skill. By measure of Statcast, his sprint speed has fallen from a 99+ percentile placement in recent years to the 97.5th percentile this season.
While Hamilton hasn’t been at his best in 2019, he ought to help shore things up down the stretch. And he’s a fascinating postseason roster piece as a potential late-inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement. That’s arguably worth a premium to a team that’s all but assured of a postseason appearance. As we discussed in profiling some August waiver claim candidates, the Braves can perhaps afford to splurge on a needed addition given that they were bailed out of the remainder of their obligations to Kevin Gausman.