ORLANDO — The Giants have never had an answer for Billy Hamilton when facing the Reds, but it’s possible Hamilton could emerge as the answer to their biggest offseason need.
The front office has checked on Hamilton’s availability multiple times, per sources, and some in the organization believe he would be the perfect fit in center field, despite some holes in his game. There has been no indication, though, that a deal is anywhere close to being completed. As of Tuesday afternoon, sources said no moves of significance were close.
According to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, talks have gotten deep enough that it’s possible a trade is completed before the teams leave Orlando on Thursday. The Rangers and several other teams have also pursued Hamilton, per Buchanan.
Hamilton, 27, is among the fastest players in recent MLB history, and he’s an elite defender in center field, having been nominate for the Gold Glove in each of the past four seasons. His speed would be a godsend for a Giants team that had the worst outfield defense in the majors in 2017 and is looking for a defense-first center fielder. Hamilton also could allow the Giants to take risks defensively in the other corner outfield spots, such as bringing Chris Shaw — a converted first baseman — up earlier than expected, or adding a power-hitting right fielder.
There are issues with Hamilton, though. He has virtually no power and a career on-base percentage of just .298. The Giants believe Hamilton’s offensive numbers would actually increase in their pitcher-friendly park because his game is well suited for their alleys, but he still would not address any of the team’s power concerns. Hamilton’s greatest strength offensively is his work on the bases. He stole 59 bases last season and has 243 stolen bases in 537 games.
“There are few players in the game like Billy Hamilton,” manager Bruce Bochy said during his winter meetings press availability. “It’s disruptive speed. That’s how fast he is. He’s one of those guys that you know he’s going to go and he still has a good chance of stealing the base.”
Hamilton is projected to earn about $5 million next season in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He has two years of team control remaining, so he fits the timetable the Giants are looking at with their current core.
The Giants have also been rumored to like Andrew McCutchen, but he's an unlikely addition, sources said. McCutchen is due more than $14 million next season and the Giants hope to stay under the luxury tax line. They are about $10 million away at the moment.