The Mariners have agreed to a minor league deal with center fielder Billy Hamilton, tweets Corey Brock of The Athletic. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweeted earlier that Hamilton was in the Mariners’ clubhouse. The Wasserman client will surely be in big league camp and compete for a roster spot over the next few weeks.
Hamilton, 31, is one of the game’s fastest players and best defensive players but has never managed to provide much in the way of value at the plate. He did swipe at least 56 bases in four straight seasons with the Reds early in his career, even in spite of a dismal .297 OBP in that time, but his lack of production makes it difficult to plug him into an everyday lineup.
Hamilton spent the 2021 season with the White Sox, logging 135 plate appearances over the life of 71 games. Primarily used as a late-game sub, Hamilton walked in a career-low three percent of his plate appearances while striking out at a career-high 34.8% clip. He hit .220/.240/.378 overall in Chicago and is a career .240/.293/.397 hitter in 3260 plate appearances.
Lack of offense notwithstanding, there’s still a chance Hamilton could wind up making the Mariners’ roster. The starting trio of Jesse Winker (left field), Jarred Kelenic (center) and Mitch Haniger (right) isn’t exactly a standout defensive group, and while Taylor Trammell would give them a strong glove off the bench, the Mariners could want the former top prospect getting regular reps in Triple-A in hopes that he can rebound from a disappointing 2021 campaign.
President of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto told reporters at the time of the Winker acquisition that former AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis isn’t likely to be ready to begin the season as he continues to rehab a knee injury, which only creates further opportunity for a player like Hamilton. Seattle, of course, has one of the game’s top all-around prospects in outfielder Julio Rodriguez, but he’s yet to even take a plate appearance at the Triple-A level and only has 206 (dominant) plate appearances of Double-A ball under his belt. High as the ceiling with Rodriguez is, it seems likely that he’ll begin the year in Triple-A Tacoma.