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Giants, Reds discussing Billy Hamilton

The Giants are strongly pursuing Billy Hamilton as they look to upgrade defensively in center field.

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St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

UPDATE: The Giants are not close to acquiring Hamilton, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Heyman says the two teams are “not matching up” on a deal. Pavlovic says there has been “little traction” between the two parties.

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ORIGINAL: As the Giants look to recover from a disastrous 64-98 record in 2017, arguably their biggest priority is adding a more capable defender in center field. They’ve reportedly made major progress towards accomplishing that goal, as they’re “engaged in serious discussions” to acquire Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier Tuesday that the Giants were strongest in the pursuit of Hamilton.

Hamilton has his fair share of weaknesses—he has just a .248/.298/.334 career slash line and has hit only 17 home runs in 2,180 career plate appearances. But he steals bases at a prolific rate, having swiped at least 50 bags in all four of his full major-league seasons, and he’s a tremendous defensive center fielder, having posted nine defensive runs saved, a total that ranked best among NL center fielders in 2017, and a 13.1 UZR/150 that ranked second among that group. He’d be a major upgrade in center over Denard Span, who had a major-league-worst 27 defensive runs saved in 2017. For what it’s worth, he’s also experienced some of his greatest career success at AT&T Park, having posted a .313/.353/.396 slash line over 52 plate appearances with six steals there.

If the Giants acquire Hamilton, they’ll likely move Span to a corner spot, where he could possibly platoon with fellow veteran Hunter Pence. That arrangement would be contingent upon whether the Giants acquire another established outfielder, which would enable both Span and Pence to become part-time players after both had underwhelming 2017 campaigns.

While Hamilton is entering his second year of arbitration and is under club control through 2019, moving him would could create playing time for highly-regarded Reds prospect Jesse Winker. Since Winker and left fielder Adam Duvall are seemingly limited to the corner spots, though, that’d require right fielder Scott Schebler to shift to center field. He currently has 33 games of big-league experience at that position.