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Reds to non-tender Billy Hamilton, per report

One would think Hamilton’s speed and defense would make him an asset in today’s game. Obviously that’s not the case.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins Photo by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds will not tender outfielder Billy Hamilton a contract prior to Friday night’s deadline for MLB clubs to submit qualifying offers to arbitration-eligible players, as The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans first reported:

He’s never shown an ability to hit for significant power or make a ton of contact, so it’s not an absolutely massive surprise to see the team sour on Hamilton — especially since, though his walks have increased in each of the past four seasons, he doesn’t exactly have elite on-base skills. He really is one of the league’s best baserunners and fielders, though, and those skills have generally been enough to offset his lack of production at the plate. Even in a bit of a down season, Hamilton ranked fourth among qualifying major-league center fielders in UZR/150 (6.0) and seventh in defensive runs saved (four) in 2018, and even as he stole fewer than 50 bags for the first time over a full major-league season, he still managed to swipe a very respectable 34 bags. Seeing as he just turned 28 in September, one would think those skills will hold up for at least two or three more years, though it’s somewhat understandable if the Reds’ front office was skeptical about paying several million for them — he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive $5.9 million in 2019.

Considering how dependent on the “three true outcomes” the major-league game is right now, Hamilton probably fits in best as a platoon player or fourth outfielder for whatever club he joins next. Even if he’s in that type of reduced role, his ability to play a very good defensive center field and make an impact as a late-game pinch-runner should be valuable.

It’s not clear what the Reds will do to replace him; they traded Adam Duvall to clear up an outfield logjam back in July, so now they have only have Jesse Winker (who is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery) and Scott Schebler as starting-caliber outfield options with major-league experience, with Aristides Aquino, Phillip Ervin, and Jose Siri also on the 40-man roster. Though he’s also coming off season-ending surgery — his for a torn tendon in his finger — it’s also possible that top prospect Nick Senzel, who has been learning the outfield after being an infielder for the duration of his professional career, could be fast-tracked to the big leagues and begin next season as a starting outfielder.