Another year, another sub-optimal season for Billy Hamilton at the plate. Hamilton, who owns the most plate appearances of all the Reds outfielders, is having the fourth worst offensive season among qualified players with a wRC+ of 64. His sub .300 OBP has seemingly put an end to his days as a leadoff hitter. He’s seemed hesitant to steal bases at his historical rate (although he has a respectable 27 swiped bags), and although defensive metrics aren’t the most reliable statistics, he’s on track to have one of the worst Ultimate Zone Ratings (UZR) of his career.
At this point in his career, Billy Hamilton is what he is. It’s really a shame – there was a lot of hope for his career. We saw the tweets and the articles and the hot takes every offseason. If only Billy could get on base. If only he could learn to drop a bunt. If only.
Despite this potentially being the worst season of Billy’s career, he’s still in line to get a very hefty raise due to MLB’s arbitration system. The Reds, of course, have options outside of riding the wave of arbitration. That’s what we’ll discuss today.
One Year Extension
Just last season, the Reds and Hamilton reached an agreement on a 1-year extension, avoiding arbitration. The price tag on these one year extensions are generally pretty close to what a player might expect to get in arbitration, without the potential of hurt feelings.
Outside of Billy moving teams, this is the most likely outcome. It’s been a trend not only for the Reds, but of most teams in the MLB. Of course, the Reds failed to reach this type of agreement with Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez in the 2017 offseason. If Billy’s agent believes he’s worth more than the Reds are willing to offer in this format, they can force an arbitration hearing.
An arbitration hearing is unlikely to go well for Billy Hamilton. A traditionally outdated system, arbitration debates are generally settled using production statistics like RBIs, Wins, Saves, Home Runs, etc. While these are all fine and good, anyone reading this blog knows they’re rarely good indicators of player value.
Billy is shooting himself in the foot here, as he’s on track to steal the fewest amount of bases this season than any other season in his career. In a process that requires you have a few trump cards, Billy Hamilton has none.
This could be appealing for the Reds, and if they’re set on keeping Billy around, might be the smartest option. The Reds have a pretty good case for not giving Billy a raise at all, and while that won’t be the case, they’ll surely come out on top of just about any arbitration hearing.
Long Term Extension
Although we covered a potential long-term extension for Billy Hamilton in our Contracts for the New Core series, we didn’t discuss whether or not it’d be a good idea for the Reds. Certainly at this point, after another awful offensive season, the odds of a long term extension for Hamilton have to be at an all-time low. This option is probably now safely in the realm of “not gonna happen.”
Billy was at the center of a few separate trade rumors before the deadline, with many teams seeking him out for his baserunning and defense. The Reds, likely the only team believing him to be an every day starter, were reportedly asking for too much in return, and nothing got done. Not surprising from a team with an owner who’s been known to want Hamilton to be a Red forever.
Billy’s skillset is exactly the type of thing that sells at the deadline, but not so much in the offseason. Baserunning and defense can fill some holes in a playoff bound roster, but aren’t likely to be enough to get a trade done in the offseason.
Let’s use some logic here. Billy Hamilton has been a pretty consistent ball player over his career. Unfortunately, he’s been consistently awful at the plate. His career is no longer young enough to bank on hope that he’ll suddenly change. As we mentioned earlier, Billy is who he is at this point.
Therefore, unless the Reds truly believe that Billy Hamilton is going to go against all odds and learn how to get on base, they must believe that he’s a below average MLB player. A below average player is not worth the contract Billy will get in either an arbitration hearing or an extension.
Therefore, the logical option would be to not pay him, and let Billy become a Free Agent. This is the black and white answer. But, as we know, the Reds as an organization have really struggled in the past to cast sentimentality aside and make sound baseball business decisions.
This move would be ridiculously easy to pull off. The Reds wouldn’t need to release Hamilton or take on any penalties for removing him from the roster. They simply only need not to tender Hamilton an arbitration offer, and once the deadline hits, he’ll be a free agent. The Reds won’t be forced to pay $6M+ for the fourth worst offensive player in the league.
I understand that it’s tough not only for the front-office, but for Reds fans to think this way. However, if the Reds are ever going to win another World Series, they’ll need to start thinking a little bit more like the teams that are winning championship. I’ll never refute the fact that Billy Hamilton can be absolutely electrifying to watch, but he simply isn’t valuable enough to take up the roster spot of a more complete player.
What do you think the Reds should do with Billy Hamilton in 2019? Let me know in the comments!
Jordan has been a lifelong Reds fan, attending games since before he can remember. When he’s not watching, listening to, or writing about the Reds, he’s designing websites, photographing weddings, and hanging out with his friends and family.