Cincinnati Reds: Billy Hamilton’s future is not easy to predict

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 03: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds leaps to catch the ball in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park on July 3, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 03: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds leaps to catch the ball in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Great American Ball Park on July 3, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /
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Billy Hamilton has had a roller coaster career thus far with the Cincinnati Reds. With the trade deadline looming and Hamilton entering his final year of team control, what are the Reds going to do with their center fielder?

The Cincinnati Reds are in a pickle. Billy Hamilton has shown time and time again why he can be a valuable member of the Reds organization. He has also shown an inability to get on base consistently. Do his positives outweigh his negatives? Should Cincinnati look to trade Hamilton before the deadline? Let’s explore the Reds’ options with their enigmatic center fielder.

Trade him

Would the Reds really look to trade Billy Hamilton? They already have. There were rumblings all off-season about the Reds looking for possible trade partners for the speedy center fielder. To be honest, that’s not surprising.

Hamilton’s career batting average is .245 and his on-base percentage over his previous 4 seasons is below .300. The guy just cannot get on base consistently. So, while his speed on the base paths is dynamic, it means nothing if he can’t get on base.

Keep him through the season, and then…

Hamilton has one more year of team control. He is arbitration eligible this season and will be in line for a significant bump from his 2018 salary of $4.6 million. He will become in free agent after the 2020 season.

Hamilton has played well of late and is finally starting to get on base more regularly. Over his last 10 games, he’s averaging better than .400 at the plate with an OBP of .433. Getting on base means Billy can run. He’s scored 8 runs and has 5 stolen bases during that 10-game stretch.

If Hamilton’s hot streak continues and his overall numbers improve, the Reds may be able to get a better trade offer in the offseason than they might before the MLB trade deadline this July.

Sign him to a contract extension

Let me be clear that I believe this is the least likely option that the Reds will use, but it is an option and there are some positives that accompany this option should Cincinnati choose to utilize it.

First, let’s get this out there, Billy Hamilton is the best defensive center fielder in the game right now. He tracks down balls that 95% of MLB players don’t get within 5 feet of. His defensive talent is elite. He has only 1 error this season in 192 defensive chances. Having a guy with those types of defensive tools is a weapon.

As we mentioned previously, Hamilton’s offensive numbers this season are improving. His on-base percentage this season is .310 which is the best we’ve seen since 2016 when his OBP was .321. When Hamilton gets on base he strikes fear into everyone playing the field. His speed sets him apart.

Being that Hamilton has yet to produce what most fans would deem a great season, it’s hard to see him getting a large contract that would hamstring the ballclub going forward. In fact, if the Reds were able to sign him to a team-friendly deal, they could still maintain tradeabilty for Hamilton in the future.

Next: Reds get three to the All-Star Game

Taylor Trammell is the Reds next option in center field, and he’s currently playing Single-A ball in Dayton. The Reds’ No. 3 overall prospect is probably at least 2 years away from being called up to the big leagues. Until then, the Reds have a quandary of what to do with Billy Hamilton.