Though they addressed a huge hole last week by acquiring third baseman Evan Longoria, the Giants are still searching for a new center fielder, and they’re “in active communication” about a potential trade involving Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported Wednesday.
Hamilton has been talked about as a potential fit in San Francisco dating back to the regular season; Giants coach Ron Wotus specifically mentioned him as a player who could upgrade their outfield defense back in October. He’d certainly do that — Hamilton had nine defensive runs saved, best among NL center fielders in 2017. In comparison, recently-traded center fielder Denard Span had a majors-worst -27 defensive runs saved for San Francisco this past season. Hamilton would also provide the Giants with a major upgrade on the basepaths, as he’s stolen 243 bases since making his MLB debut in September of 2013.
Hamilton would be affordable and provide some stability in center for the Giants, as he’s arbitration-eligible through 2019. But his .298 career on-base percentage and total lack of power (17 homers in 2,180 career plate appearances) could be causes for concern with a team that finished 29th in team OBP (.309) and 30th in homers (128) in 2017.
Morosi writes that the Reds have “shown interest” in Giants 2017 first-rounder Heliot Ramos. Unless the Reds were sending back another player, a trade involving Ramos would seem to swing rather significantly in Cincinnati’s favor, as Ramos is coming off a season in which he hit .348/.404/.645 with six homers and 10 steals in 151 Arizona Rookie League plate appearances, being awarded Baseball America Rookie All-Star and AZL Postseason All-Star honors. While Ramos, who turned 18 in September, is currently rated as the Giants’ No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, his AZL performance makes him a strong candidate to move up to No. 1 on that list — and possibly on to the MLB Top 100 list — when they re-rank prospects in January.
While Ramos may be an excessive ask for the Reds, there’s really no need for them to trade Hamilton right now. They’d like to create more playing time for prospect Jesse Winker, but since Winker is limited to the outfield corners, they’d be weakening their outfield defense with a Hamilton trade, as current right fielder Scott Schebler would likely move to center. If the Giants aren’t willing to give the Reds what they want, they can hold on to Hamilton and see if a center field need develops for another team during the regular season or next offseason.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports tweeted on Wednesday night that the teams remain apart in discussions regarding Hamilton, with the Giants being reluctant to give up Ramos but otherwise limited by a lack of intriguing prospects. Heyman’s info matches up with a report last week from NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic that suggested the Hamilton talks were being “held up by high demands.”
The Giants appear to be reluctant to sign free agent Lorenzo Cain due to the fact that he was tendered a qualifying offer by the Royals and would thus cost them draft picks. If they aren’t able to acquire Hamilton, though, free agents who could help bridge the gap to highly-regarded prospect Steven Duggar in center include Jarrod Dyson, Austin Jackson, and Jon Jay. Besides Duggar, who played 13 games at Triple-A last season after being limited by injuries for much of the year, the Giants’ current internal options in center include Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, and Jarrett Parker.