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Cincinnati Reds: A.J. Pollock is the best replacement for Billy Hamilton

By Brad Griffith
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 22: A.J. Pollock #11 of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes a sliding catch on a ball hit by Jose Pirela #2 of the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning of an MLB game at Chase Field on April 22, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 22: A.J. Pollock #11 of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes a sliding catch on a ball hit by Jose Pirela #2 of the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning of an MLB game at Chase Field on April 22, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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With the uncertainty surrounding acquisitions and departures this offseason, the Cincinnati Reds have taken a positive direction by signing a new manager. Here is why they shouldn’t stop there and need to shop a particular speedy fan-favorite.

Any time a ball was hit deep to the wall or a base needed to be stolen, Cincinnati Reds‘ center fielder Billy Hamilton was always there. At first glance, Hamilton’s speed is eye-opening and opposing pitchers always have to keep an eye on him.

When fans look beyond the speed, they notice a glaring weakness on offense. While Hamilton is loved in the Queen City, the intrigue of getting another center fielder is what the team needs amid another mini rebuild. A so-called step in the right direction.

While there isn’t anyone quite like Hamilton, a Gold Glove finalist for the third straight year, there are others who have that caliber defense and can perform offensively too. The struggles on offense for Hamilton need to be addressed, especially for a leadoff type hitter, and that answer is available for the taking.

Down in the desert

To replace Hamilton offensively and defensively, the Reds should sign A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sure Pollock hasn’t been the same since his All-Star and Gold Glove season of 2015 due to injuries, but a new surrounding could be the answer (see Matt Harvey). The first glaring difference from Hamilton is the offensive numbers.

Related Story. It's time for the Reds to part ways with Hamilton

In 113 games last season for the Diamondbacks, Pollock had 21 home runs with 65 RBI  in only 413 at-bats. He ended with a .257 average and a .484 slugging percentage with just 100 strikeouts. While these haven’t been his best numbers since 2015, compare that to Hamilton’s finish.

This season in 153 games, Hamilton hit four home runs and only drove in 29 RBI with 504 at-bats. He ended with a .236 average and a slugging percentage of .327 also striking out 132 times. Yes, you could argue stolen bases, but even those declined for Hamilton from an average in the high 50’s and 40’s to low 20’s.

Can the Cincinnati Reds afford A.J. Pollock?

Turning 31 and entering free agency, Pollock is going to draw some interest from clubs that need a veteran outfielder. His current salary is $7.7 Million and would definitely be an attainable asset to the clubhouse. Consider Hamilton’s $4.6 Million with the possibility of him commanding an increase, and for the amount of offense alone would be worth the payment. Going off the team’s intent to be spenders this offseason, this would be the move to get the ball rolling.

Hamilton is arbitration eligible in his third year meaning his contract is up and he can sign with another team next season and is also a free agent in 2020. It was reported that last offseason the San Francisco Giants showed heavy interest in acquiring him, and it is safe to say those talks could ramp up.

With a hitter-friendly ballpark, the Giants could use a player like Hamilton to cover ground.  The crowded list of hopeful extensions for players like Scooter Gennett means the Reds could get Pollock cheaper than expected and still focus on those other guys.

Time to rattle free agency

While Pollock isn’t as fast as Hamilton, this past season showed that he can return to his dominant 2015 form when healthy. In a hitters’ ballpark like Great American, Pollock would be on pace to mirror or pass his impressive 2015 and 2018 stats. With young guys coming up through the system and coming back from injuries, a veteran fielder with power can complement nicely.

Next. Way too early 25-man roster

While Hamilton has been a highlight staple each season, he just hasn’t stepped up offensively. The Cincinnati Reds owe it to themselves and the fans by acquiring talent to complement an already dangerous offense. Signing Pollock would be a bold move by new manager David Bell and his statistical mind, but it just might work.

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