Billy Hamilton does several things really well. Since the start of the 2014 season, Hamilton has stolen 264 bases, which is the most in baseball. During that time, he’s been worth 51 runs above average on the bases, which is also the best in baseball by a considerable margin. He’s been worth 55 runs above average on defense, which is sixth in the entire sport. Unfortunately, he’s also been a terrible hitter, with an anemic .244/.297/.332 line over the last five seasons. Of the 164 players with at least 2000 plate appearances over that span, Hamilton’s 69 wRC+ comes in dead last. The Reds no longer wished to deal with a player who, despite doing several things really well, is generally below average, particularly as Hamilton’s salary was set to rise in arbitration, so they did not tender him a contract. Hamilton has found a new home in Kansas City.
According to Buster Olney, the Royals and the speedy center fielder have agreed to a deal that will pay Hamilton $5.25 million, plus an additional one million dollars in potential incentives. MLB Trade Rumors projected Hamilton would receive $5.9 million in arbitration, so this deal falls a little short of that estimate.
For the Reds, the move opens up some options in a crowded part of their roster. With a full infield of Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett, the surprising Jose Peraza, and Eugenio Suarez, the team didn’t have room for top prospect Nick Senzel. The third base prospect was tried out in the middle infield last season, but he seems likely to take on a new project in center field next year.
Given the terms of Hamilton’s deal with Kansas City, there wasn’t likely a robust trade market for him. In Kansas City, he should get the opportunity to show off his great defensive skills and base running for a team not likely to win a lot of games next year. The Royals still seem to be committed to Brett Phillips, part of the return for Mike Moustakas last season in a deadline deal with the Brewers. That means that Phillips will likely move to right field, and with Alex Gordon in left field, the team should have very good outfield defense, though perhaps not quite on the level of the Boston Red Sox.
Despite his flaws, Billy Hamilton is one of the more exciting players in baseball, and it is good for the sport that he appears to have found a full-time home for next season.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.