So much focus this time of the year is placed on the biggest names on the trade market. And while it’s understandable that everyone wants to know where Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman and other players of that ilk will land, it’s also true that smaller-scale deals can often have considerable postseason ramifications. To that end, while neither move will generate much in the way of national headlines, it’s worth noting that the Royals are all but certain to trade both Billy Hamilton and Terrance Gore (who has already been designated for assignment) in the near future.
The switch-hitting Hamilton has recently been dropped to a backup role following the promotion of former top prospect Bubba Starling and hasn’t started a game since July 3. “There’s definitely interest out there,” Hamilton tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, noting that he’s regularly in touch with his agent about his future. It stands to reason, of course, that his representatives are in contact with the K.C. front office about Hamilton’s status.
As Hamilton further explains, Royals general manager Dayton Moore and the rest of the organization were professional and up-front with him about the fact that he’d lose playing time to Starling, giving him notice well in advance of the move: “I really appreciate it from [general manager] Dayton [Moore] all the way down. … I understand that that’s their guy. That’s part of the business.”
A trade of Hamilton seems likely and could come anytime between now and July 31. A move involving Gore might be even more immediate, though. The Royals designated Gore for assignment on July 12, which kicked off a seven-day period to either trade Gore, attempt to pass him through outright waivers or release him. As The Athletic’s Alec Lewis writes (subscription required), even if Gore hits waivers and goes unclaimed, Moore will likely find a way to place the speedster with a contender. Following Gore’s DFA, Moore said to reporters: “I told Terrance yesterday that when we signed him, we said, ‘Look, Terrance, if we’re not in this thing, we’ll look to find you a spot with a contending team so you can do your thing in October.”
Both 28 years of age, Hamilton and Gore are cut from the same cloth as elite baserunners and defenders who offer minimal value at the plate. Hamilton carries far more MLB experience, having spent a half decade as the Reds’ primary center fielder. However, while he authored four straight seasons with at least 56 stolen bases, he’s never even approached a league-average campaign with the bat. A career .243/.297/.327 hitter, Hamilton has only managed a .217/.284/.271 slash in his first season away from Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. He’s earning $5.25MM in 2019, with $2.76MM yet to be paid out. And, as Flanagan adds, he could earn another another $1MM via plate-appearance-based incentives.
Gore, meanwhile, has never received any type of extended look in the big leagues. In fact, despite entering the 2019 season with 27 career stolen bases, Gore only had 19 plate appearances as a Major Leaguer. He’s been used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement with the Royals and Cubs. To his credit, Gore batted .275/.362/.353 in 58 plate appearances this season — including a perfect 4-for-4 showing when attempting to bunt for a hit. He’s only a .221/.304/.271 hitter in Triple-A and a .257/.333/.277 hitter in Double-A, however, so it’s understandable that teams have been reluctant to give him a regular look in the game’s highest level.
Gore’s glove and wheels have frequently landed him on postseason rosters as a pinch-running specialist, but the elimination of August trades in 2019 means any team wishing to utilize him in that capacity will need to acquire him sooner than usual. Hamilton could land a similar role, but one would think that with his MLB experience, he’d be in line for a bit more playing time. The return in each deal will be minimal, but both players have the type of niche skill set that can impact both a playoff race and a postseason series. The greater question may be one of whether a contending team wants to carry either player for the final 10 weeks of the season. It’s possible, particularly with Gore, that other teams will show greater interest once he’s cleared waivers and can be acquired without immediately requiring a 40-man roster spot.