2017 Reds

Reds sign Billy Hamilton, Zack Cozart to one-year deals

Billy Hamilton

Four Reds were eligible for arbitration this year. Today, the Reds signed each to one-year contracts.

Cincinnati inked Billy Hamilton to a one-year, $2.65 million contract today, avoiding arbitration with the speedy center fielder. The club also signed Blake Wood to a $1.25 million deal, with the arbitration deadline rapidly approaching.

The Reds avoided arbitration with center fielder Billy Hamilton, MLB.com has learned. The two sides agreed to a one-year, $2.625 million contract.

Reliever Blake Wood also avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.275 million, sources told MLB.com.

The club has not confirmed either transaction.

Friday is the deadline for players and clubs to exchange salary-figure proposals on one-year contracts.

Some clubs, including the Reds, employ a “File and Trial” policy — meaning that once numbers are exchanged, they will likely not negotiate ahead of a hearing next month.

As I’m writing this, I see that the other two arbitration-eligible Reds, Zack Cozart — eligible for arbitration for the third and final time — and Tony Cingrani, have been signed to deals of their own.

The deadline was 1 pm today, so it looks like the Reds snuck these four signings in just under the wire. With respect to Hamilton, Wick Terrell made some good points:

At $2.625 million, Billy sets a pretty nice baseline for his further arbitration years, as his future salaries will be escalated based upon this first year number. And for the Reds’ sake, they’re a bit fortunate that the specific talents that Hamilton brings to the table don’t always garner the types of big paydays in arbitration as, say, dingers and RBIs.

At 53.1 Defensive Runs Saved since the start of the 2014 season, Hamilton ranks as the third most valuable defender in all of baseball in that time according to FanGraphs, while also ranking head and shoulders above the rest of his peers as the best baserunner in the game during that stretch, as well. You’d think that kind of electricity would carry more weight in the negotiation process, but while those skills have found their way into being valued by the likes of fWAR and bWAR, the arbitration system still favors more traditional stats. For instance, Cozart – similarly valuable for his great defense despite subpar offense – earned a comparable $2.35 million in his first arbitration year back in 2014.

So it’s Hamilton’s first big payday, and Cozart hopes it isn’t his last. After this season, Cozart will be a free agent. Whether he’ll still be a Red at the end of this season remains to be seen.

45 thoughts on “Reds sign Billy Hamilton, Zack Cozart to one-year deals

  1. Chad-You’re slacking. No comment on you about the greatness of BHam? Thanks for all you do.

  2. Love the BHam deal. Sure it’ll go up from there, but I don’t see a lot to lose from the Reds perspective. BHam is already more valuable than that number, and if he proves his offensive improvement is for real the Reds can look to buy out a few more years of him next offseason

  3. Why wouldn’t they lock up Billy with a long term deal? Don’t wait til his value gets too high where they’re unable to sign him. His stock will continue to rise if he uses the same approach as last year.

    • Given his skill set and potential fragility, it’s reasonable to wait for one more good year before you start talking extension. Reds also have some OF prospects coming down the pipe that they may want to keep an eye on.

      • And honestly, I think with almost any player, if you don’t buy out any free-agent years, I think a club may be better served to just negotiate year-to-year during the arb process and go to a hearing if necessary. Aside from cost certainty, I don’t think it helps the club get much of a discount over arbitration raises and it gives a small-market club the out of a non-tender if a player isn’t performing or has major injury concerns.

  4. Another team has filled their 2B need, so it appears that any BP to Atlanta talk is now dead as a doornail. Atlanta picked up 2B Micah Johnson from the LA Dodgers, who had been DFA’d. Johnson was also part of the Todd Frazier deal.
    Another BP rejection place now has filled their 2B need. Leverage, leverage, leverage. The Reds now look like they would have to pay another team almost the entirety of BP’s salary to make a trade. Might as well give BP his unconditional release now before spring training even starts.

    • Play BP sparingly and only in B-games and release him right at the end of ST. No, I’m not bitter.

    • It was probably a reality that the Reds would have to pay nearly all of BP’s salary anyway when they tried a trade with ATL. The leverage has always been there. I don’t think BP really intends to go along with any trade. The Reds hopefully know what they have to do going forward, if they’re serious about rebuilding.

  5. Billy Hamilton has been worth, on average, just under 3 fWAR each season. If he continues with that level of production, is there an estimate out there for what his arbitration raises would be?

    • Not only could they not get the Cozart trade done to SEA last season, now they’re giving him $5+ milion dollars for 2017. I know, I know, they can trade him at the deadline, but can they? They tried last season, couldn’t get it done. We are trusting this team with a rebuild? Strap in for the world’s longest rebuild. Better start looking to 2020, this decade is lost.

    • I strongly disagree with this. If Cozart plays well, there is almost certainly value to be had for him in trade, possibly even before the deadline. If he struggles or gets hurt, he’s an expensive bench player (struggles) or he’s money on the DL (hurt). In any of these 3 cases he really isn’t blocking Peraza for very long. Just giving Cozart or giving him the DFA boot are both the wrong thing to do.

      • I saw Gohara was traded, he was the pitcher we were going to get for Cozart. I’m sorry I don’t have the link (I think it was mlb trade rumors) and someone reported Gohara’s shoulder issues could have been the main hold up. That’s interesting if the Reds balked because of health concerns and not because they ran out of time. To me though, that seems like a really stupid thing for the Reds front office to lie about. Especially when the reason they gave made them look inept.

        • I don’t see “running out of time” and “health concerns” being mutually exclusive.

          When I saw “health concerns” it made the “ran out of time” thing make more sense to me. They likely identified some health concerns that they wanted to get more information about, and ran out of time to do that. This makes a lot more sense than they just ran out of time to complete the paperwork.

        • Another trade we didn’t make, and many of us ridiculed the front office for, was wheeler for Bruce to the Mets the first time. Our FO said no, many of us complained, they were patient and got dilson instead.

          Wheelers arm is a mess, and dilson could be our 2B of the future. We all take pot shots at the FO on this site from time to time, but rarely double back to acknowledge when their moves actually turned out correct.

          I’d take Dilson instead of Wheeler for Bruce. Anyone disagree?

        • To be fair, the Reds FO only revisited the trade with the Mets last year because a trade fell through with the Jays/Angels over the offseason, when Bruce’s value was much worse due to completely falling off a cliff at the end of 2015. The Reds were ready to move on, and weren’t likely to get anything back as valuable as Herrera.

          Personally, I was glad the Wheeler trade fell through. I didn’t see the need to add more starting pitching, especially with such an injury history plus the fact he’d already racked up service time.

          But I’m not sure the FO gets credit for waiting on Herrera, as they were ready to trade Bruce for pennies on the dollar over the offseason, just as they did Chapman. The Reds timing in when they have made trades throughout the second half of this rebuild has been pretty poor. They’ve missed on maximizing value in not trading Chapman, Frazier, and Cozart at trade deadlines, and panicked when Chapman’s incident occurred. They did well to trade Bruce when they did, but really only did so because two other attempts fell through.

        • At Hotto: your POV may actually be more correct. A more “broken clock being right twice a day” situation. Well said.

      • LW, the meter will be running at $880K per month on ZC. That’s $3.5M to the trade deadline.

        I’m doubtful the value he adds to the Reds plus the value of any eventual return on him will equal the salary the Reds pay him before he is off their books unless somebody has an emergency at SS early on.

        For the good of the Reds, we can all hope I am wrong……..

        • It’s not that much money, but as you said before those $3.5-millions start up add up when it’s a little here and a little there.

          You’ve been on this all along, so if you’re right, I’ll be the first to say “Yep, that OhioJimW had it nailed from the start.” You very well may be right but from where I’m sitting, I think the Reds are doing the right thing and I’m sure hoping you’re wrong.

        • LW, you are on the right track with your thinking though. Not only is Cozart’s contract not a lot of money in the relative sense here, but you don’t even have to worry about the incremental dynamic of similar such contracts for the Reds roster this year. Unlike the Hanahan and Schumaker years, the Reds payroll is much lower now. This 1 year signing does not in any way impact the team’s ability to add on talent later.

          Now, you can still make an argument about whether Cozart’s contract will be worth the return (performance or trade value). But, the other concerns aren’t really there right now.

    • This signing changes nothing. The Reds weren’t going to release Cozart and they can still trade him. They just have an agreed-upon salary before arbitration.

  6. Controllable players and arbitration…yet Zack cozart 5.5 million….Bryce Harper 13 mil arbitration under age 25… Nolan arenado…2 years 30 million ….Padres give will Myers 80 mil….. Does Marty want will Myers?

  7. Worst case scenario is they won’t find a trade partner for Philips and Cozart so both will hit free agency at the end of the season. Mesoraco’s contract expires after 2018 season but still they’ll be hung with Bailey until 2020 and Votto until 2023. Those bad contracts are heavier than a granite slab.

      • Bailey’s injury has, unfortunately. If he bounces back and becomes a good starter again, then the contract looks decent again. Note, I don’t fault Bailey or the Reds on that contract. Injuries happen… As for the Votto contract, there is nothing that makes that a bad contract, at least up until this point. It is likely to be upside down in a few years but pretty much all long term deals are upside down for the out years. Plus, my opinion is that an MLB team needs to pay somebody on their team. In the Reds case, it may as well be Votto. He has been worth every penny so far.

    • According to BBRef, with the contract he just signed, Cozart’s career MLB earnings will be in the neighborhood $12M at the end of this coming season. That’s a nice take but hardly a life time nest egg for a professional athlete. Thus, he will be looking for a multiple year double digits millions contract to be an everyday player.

      To do this, he needs to get into a situation in 2017 where he’s playing everyday and doing well so he can prove his health is not an issue and that he can still get the job done. The ironic the fact of the matter is that it is in the player’s best interest to be out of Cincy sooner rather than later just as it is in the team’s best interest to move him along sooner.

      While I’ve been clear that I think the Reds should have already let him go for what he would bring, I wish him well personally.

      • nice guy and good enough to be an everyday player, that 2015 knee injury was really a blow

  8. Juan Graterol (C) is once againavailable. SD just DFA’d him, if we want him once more on our roster.

  9. How long will it be before players use that “8 million = 1 WAR” statistic for these type of negotiations? That is if they aren’t already – I don’t think they do.

    • I am sure agents have some number per WAR when negotiating for free agents, but I don’t think the arbitration process takes this into account when determining salary.

    • 8 million=1 WAR is what a player on the open market would theoretically receive. Part of the arbitrator’s responsibility is to understand that the player involved is not on the open market so his value is discounted.

      A player can submit a price that equates to 8 million =1 WAR and win if the team offer’s a salary that is absurdly low.

  10. Just a parting thought with regards to the Cozart signing.
    If they had gone to arbitration, then it might have gotten “ugly” with respect to revealing to the rest of the baseball world Zach’s exact physical condition.
    As it is, this is sort of a vote of confidence by the Reds that Zach is healthy, and they intend to play him. I actually think this adds a little to his possible trade value (not much), but it does cost the Reds some more money. They might not yet view Peraza as a “sure thing” at SS, and then again, they might trade Zach in Spring Training, once he plays and other teams scout him and see that he is healthy (or not?).
    Actually a few unknowns floating about this whole deal. We, of course, as fans are allowed to make guesses, but I don’t actually see this as some kind of big mistake on the part of Reds’ management.

    • They would need to reveal his “exact’ medical condition to any trade partners anyway. His entire medical history would be shared and he would need to take a physical before any trade would occur.

      Do you think the Reds can hide some medical issue? Do you think other teams are that dumb?

      • I think Chuck’s point is especially relevant now, given what the Padres were found to be doing last season: keeping two sets of player records. One set was shared with potential trade partners and the other true set of medical records was kept a secret.

        And other teams have to know that Cozart finished the year hurt. Tom Diesman made the point on this website that perhaps his physical issues weren’t so unexpected. But it would have to give other teams an extra reason to be cautious.

        • The fallout from the Padres situation is what led to a “crackdown” on injury reporting in September after the roster expansion date when typically nobody new had been placed on the DL thus eliminating the need to make disclosures on the record.

          The Reds subsequently DLed both Hamilton and Cozart both of whom everyone pretty much already knew were not going to play again in 2016. Later in the month when the Reds needed a 40 man roster spot, Cozart was the one moved to the 60 day DL. I have no clue whether or not this had anything to do with his injury being more severe than Hamilton’s; but, it certainly strikes one as strange that a team, if they had a choice in the matter, would further devalue a player they knew they knew they were going to try and move in the off season.

          A major part of my underlying core position in regard to Cozart has been that it just makes no business sense that the Reds should bear the the risks of his off season recovery when he will be in a walk away year and does not figure in the team’s long term plans. And, as I cited above there is also no reason to believe the Reds figure in the player’s long term plans since he will want to be looking for starting players’ money and not bench money after 2017.

      • Perhaps at this point Zack’s exact medical condition is “unknown but hopeful”. I truly don’t know how healthy his knee is. And he may be fine by Spring Training.
        My point was if they went to arbitration hearing, both sides would show comps as salary markers. The Reds management might make a point of his DL time, and so discretion being better, they resolved the issue before arbitration arrived.

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