The Blue Jays are showing interest in outfielder Billy Hamilton, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Hamilton had been outrighted by the Marlins last week but rejected that assignment and elected free agency, as was his right as a player with more than three years of MLB service time.
Hamilton, 31, is a veteran who has appeared in each of the past ten MLB seasons. He’s never been a tremendous hitter, as evidenced by his career batting line of .239/.293/.326, but he’s long been one of the fastest players in the league, allowing him to provide value with baserunning and defense.
He began this year on a minor league deal with the Mariners, getting into 22 games with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers before triggering an opt-out clause and returning to free agency. He then landed with the Marlins on another minor league deal, getting selected to the big league club just over a week later. He spent just over a month with the Fish before getting outrighted last week.
He was largely used off the bench in that stint in the big leagues, getting into 20 games but making just 15 plate appearances. He hit a paltry .077/.143/.077 in that time, but stole seven bases without getting caught.
Despite the lackluster results with the bat, most contending teams will be interested in players like Hamilton. The ability to steal a base or make a difficult catch in a key moment can make a big difference in the later innings. With extra innings now beginning with a runner already on second base, having a speedy pinch runner on the bench arguably becomes even more important. With rosters expanding from 26 to 28 in September, it will become easier for a team to find space for a player of this ilk.
The Blue Jays recently made a switch in this area of their roster, signing Jackie Bradley Jr. after he was released by the Red Sox but then later designating Bradley Zimmer for assignment. Zimmer was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Phillies. As Davidi notes, the Jays have been focused on adding depth options, recently signing first baseman/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo to a minor league deal. If they can get Hamilton to put pen to paper, it would add another layer of depth as the club gears up for the stretch run. Coming into tonight’s action, the Jays and Rays are tied for the second and third Wild Card spots in the American League, but with four teams within five games.