The San Francisco Giants traded two players to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen yesterday. Given the status conferred to McCutchen by his former MVP award and being the “face of the Pirates franchise,” the return for Pittsburgh seemed underwhelming. Bryan Reynolds is a switch-hitting outfielder who has solid but not elite potential as a prospect. Kyle Crick, a RHP, is the toss-in guy who might benefit from a change in pitching coach.

The question from the perspective of a Reds fan is what does the McCutchen trade indicate about the possibility of a trade with the Giants for Billy Hamilton? The Giants have long been rumored to be in talks with the Reds about their centerfielder.

Could the Giants use McCutchen in CF?

If the Giants decide to use McCutchen in centerfield, they no longer would need Billy Hamilton. But there’s serious question about Andrew McCutchen’s ability to play a positive defensive role in CF.

The Pirates had announced at the start of last year they were moving McCutchen to left field and Starling Marte to center. The move was overdue, as the Pirates felt that McCutchen’s defensive skills, which may have never been all that great anyhow, were in decline. Marte was a strong defensive outfielder. But then Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games due to a positive test result for PEDs. The Pirates had to change their plans and McCutchen ended up playing 139 games in CF.

San Francisco’s centerfield is large. Much bigger than Pittsburgh’s. The Giants finished next-to-last in outfield defense last year, so they really could benefit from an upgrade. It’s doubtful McCutchen, who had a negative defensive rating again last year, in CF offers that.

The Giants are also looking for a corner outfielder, so they could bump McCutchen to right field and acquire a defensive-oriented centerfielder. That could be Billy Hamilton.

Would the Reds receive a worse return for Hamilton than the Pirates got for McCutchen? 

Not necessarily. McCutchen is 31. Hamilton is 27. McCutchen becomes a free agent at the end of 2018. The Giants would have two years of control over Billy Hamilton. Most important, McCutchen’s salary is $14 million (the Pirates paid $2 million of it). While Billy Hamilton, who is still in his arbitration years, will earn only $4.6 million.

Over the past two seasons, Andrew McCutchen produced a total of 1.8 WAR (Baseball-Reference) or 4.3 WAR (FanGraphs), depending on the source. Billy Hamilton had total WAR of 3.8 (B-R) or 4.3 (FG) over that same time.

To summarize: McCutchen is older, can’t really play CF, is much more expensive, has one less year of team control and has produced less value than Billy Hamilton the past two years.

So the Reds could expect a better return for Hamilton than the Pirates got for Andrew McCutchen.

Couldn’t the Giants just sign a free agent CF?

Yes, but their payroll is right up against MLB’s soft salary cap. It has been reported that the Giants want to stay under that threshold this year. Hamilton would be substantially cheaper than Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson and John Jay, the three most prominent free agent CF.

Doesn’t the Giants farm system stink?

Yes. Yes, it does. The Giants have one of the worst group of prospects in MLB. They’ve weakened it twice recently with trades for McCutchen and Evan Longoria. But there are still a couple players that would be of interest to the Reds. And the Reds can always trade Hamilton to a different team.

What’s the bottom line, will the Reds and Giants make a trade? 

Zach Buchanan of the Enquirer says the prospect of a Hamilton trade with the Giants was already doubtful. Recently, Reds owner Bob Castellini said he hoped Hamilton will be with the Reds forever. The market for Billy Hamilton, the softest hitter in the major leagues, was always pretty dicey.

Unlike left field (Adam Duvall-Jesse Winker) and second base (Scooter Gennett-Dilson Herrera/Nick Senzel), the Reds don’t have a player in the organization ready to take Billy Hamilton’s place in CF. Hamilton isn’t blocking anyone’s development.

On the other hand, unless the Reds plan to offer Billy Hamilton an extension, 2019 will be his last year with the Reds. This might be the best time to trade him, with two full years of control left. If the Reds can get something of value for him, they should do it.

36 Responses

  1. Kap

    I still say the chances remain about the same, which was about 50-50. It would be shocking if they made McCutchen play center. I know thew Reds want Heliot Ramos, which would be awesome, but I doubt they are willing to part with him. If a trade package of Austin Slater, Aramis Garcia, and Alexander Canario came along, that would be enough in my opinion.

    Keep in mind, the Giants were not the only team interested in Billy. Think the Rangers were also

  2. Scott Carter

    I believe if Hamilton went to Giants in trade there would probably have to be another team involved, possibly with another player involved, we have three good possibilities in Duvall, Schebler and Gennett. Otherwise I don’t see us getting much in return.

  3. wizeman

    Good Afternoon Steve. Happy New Year. Know this is a bit off topic and has probably been discussed ad nauseum… but what do you think it would take for the Reds to acquire Yelich… and is he worth it. Has lots of control left.
    Never see the Reds included amongst the teams “kicking the tires.”

  4. wkuchad

    If the best offer the Reds receive is the exact same return for Andrew McCutchen, do you make the deal now or keep Hamilton until the trade deadline or next offseason?

    • scottya

      It seems like a pretty weak return. Crick looks like a sure bet middle reliever+ = maybe 1 war per year. I like Reynolds numbers and being a CF.

      This is likely close to what the Giants are offering for Hamilton. Maybe we should hold out for more as the FO is doing.

      Hamilton in the spacious outfield in SF is more valuable than gabp

  5. Sliotar

    This was reported a few places last night….Pence in LF, McCutchen in RF for Giants.

    The trend (Springer, Blackmon, Yelich, etc) is going to towards taking the offense and its greater upside, live with average to slightly poor defense in CF.

    The Giants, attempting to stave off an extended re-build with a last run, appear to be the only serious suitor.

    It speaks volumes on Hamilton’s perceived value in MLB offices (other than Castellini’s).

    Deal him ASAP for any reasonable value.

  6. davy13

    The time is ripe for the Reds (my #1 team) to make another trade with my hometown Marlins (my #2 team) for Yelich. The latest reports of Yelich’s frustrations and Jeter’s Project Wolverine financial plan to profitability makes this a real confluence of needs that helps both clubs. Offer Billy and a couple of our young pitching prospects

    Yelich’s OBP, BA, and solid defensive range will be a welcomed addition to the Reds batting lineup either to hit in front of or behind Votto. He would be a lights improvement over BH or Schleber. BH’s defense and speed is even better suited for the vast outfield of Marlins ballpark. What’s more the Reds have a glut of young pitching and the Marlins are desperate for them.

    • davy13

      Yelich can be a franchise cornerstone piece for the Reds for the next few years since he is young (26), consistent, and locked in at a very affordable contract.

      • JB WV

        Now that the Reds have such a juicy farm system, it’s hard to believe the Marlins wouldn’t be interested in a trade. They might even take Billy with some top prospects. Is our FO talking with them? Haven’t seen any reports about it. Another question, has the price for Yelich gone down now since he’s seeking a trade?

    • James H.

      Hamilton, Duval (replacing lost players from Marlins’ roster purge), and either Bob Steve or Cody Reed or both for Yelich. Outfield of Schebler (RF), Winker (LF), Yelich (C), Ervin (backup) sounds nice. Then later when Siri and Trammel (and others) are ready, you have tradeable pieces and a nice pipeline to the majors.

      • Jack

        Oh yeah trade a below average centerfielder, diabetic 30 year old leftfielder and 2 pitchers that have shown nothing for a allstar centerfielder. What is Miami waiting for?

      • David Diez

        True, the Marlins will not want to settle for bottom of the barrel prospects. But they have settled for less than top prospects for Stanton and Ozuna, who are better players than Yelich. Right now, there most important priority is to shed salary. If DW offers Billy H., R Iglesias, and young rotation arm (Steve Mancuso has also written about this in an earlier post), I believe that would entice Jeter.

        It is doable without hurting the Reds long-term.

  7. Taylor D

    Deal Hamilton and use prospects to flip to Miami for Yelich to minimize the impact on our farm. Get Yelich NO MATTER WHAT!!!

  8. Sandman

    Ok, so, since a trade with SF is “doubtful” are there any other teams that have a bona fide interest in Hamilton?

  9. Kap

    Come on guys. We’ve gotta let this Yelich thing go. The Reds will not trade for him or probably will never think about it, although they could if they choose to. He’ll be a dodger or a Cub or something

    • IndyRedMan

      The Cubs had old man John Jay in CF last year. Yelich def seems like a fit there. They’d just pay him Hayward’s $ when the time comes.

    • JB WV

      Zach had almost no value to start the year, coming off injury. When the deadline came around, he was hurt again. Just bad timing in this instance.

    • David Diez

      It not nothing absolutely. Shedding salary to sign other FA or one’s own players is something. The problem is when the team does not use the salary to sign other solid players.

  10. IndyRedMan

    All this talk about the Reds new approach to analytics then they keep Billy to patrol one of the smallest (if not the smallest?) outfield in mlb? Billy’s great speed usually means he can get to the wall and watch the 390 ft homers from a shorter distance away then the average CFer. What good is that? He literally would be more effective defensively for almost any other team in baseball.

  11. scottya

    This return for Mccutchen is pretty weak. So I’m assuming the offer for Hamilton isn’t much different. So a key question for us fans is would you take this same offer or less?

    I say hold out for more.

  12. IndyRedMan

    Not that he’s a CF, but the Reds should be out there targeting guys like Suarez from teams that are rebuilding. Nick Castellanos fills that bill! He’s not a good def 3B, but they could stick him in the OF and he could get by. He’ll be 26 in March and had a .811 ops last year. Led the AL in triples with 10 and 26 bombs. I read somewhere that he led MLB in 380+ foot outs. He could explode in GABP! Do something? Give us a reason to watch this team past May this year!

  13. Bill

    All the talk from BC & the FO about how big a asset to a team is reminds me of a parent tell a child how good some food taste after they took a bite & don’t like it. Baseball GEms know what he can & can’t do, they are mot snowing anyone.

  14. Ron Payne

    I think the only way Hamilton gets traded is if he is packaged with a more desirable player such as Suarez or Iglesias. As for a Yelich trade, I think the Marlins are going to want Greene (unfortunately) along with Trammell and maybe 2 other players.

    • JoshG

      I think the Marlins ask for Senzel ++

  15. Zakk

    I’m sorry, but the guy has proven over and over he can’t get on base. He can’t hit and he can’t bunt. He is an excellent CF. However, the Reds would be lucky if they got a bucket of baseballs for him.

  16. bmblue

    Why cant they give Ervin a shot at CF? Why does everyone keep saying they have no one to play in CF this year. They aren’t contending. Who cares. Play Ervin and if it doesn’t work, address it next off season when you are trying to compete.

    • Jefferson J Reed

      The beginning of your second paragraph is what is going to happen in 2018. Just a repeat of the Price managerial years.

  17. Will Adams

    In regards to acquiring Yelich, I’d be all for trading Duvall and Hamilton for him. Throw in either Reed or Garrett or both as sweetness. This would open up playing time in left for Winker as well.

      • JoshG

        zero chance the Marlins do anything like that.
        to get Yelich you are talking more like greene or senzel plus more

      • Reaganspad

        No Greene or Senzel

        If that is what it takes I am content without him

        Yelich is good but not the only player on the planet.

        We will not be drafting Senzels or Greenes for another 15 years

  18. sezwhom

    If the Giants decide to use McCutchen in centerfield….

    No “if” anymore. He’s going to to play RF. Pence as already agreed to move to LF so they do need a CF but looking more at Cain and Maybin than Hamilton. Besides, the Reds asked for Ramos and the Giants couldn’t hang up the phone fast enough.

  19. Indy Red Man

    All the talk about Yelich but I really think Kevin Kiermaier is a better alternative with all things considered. He’s a little older then Yelich but a .851 ops vs righties last year and the best defensive CF in baseball. I really doubt he’s better then Billy but he’s good. He’s also signed thru 2023 at a max of 13/mil season. He would cost a lot (same as Yelich) but could really improve the team. He’s also from Indiana and might like that aspect!

  20. misconcepcion

    Unless a hot prospect with plus defense and more able on-base/slugging skills comes along, I like keeping Sliding Billy as the starting CF against righthanders and a judicious mid-to-late inning replacement of one of the other outfielders as a baserunner who stays in the game defensively. I actually see this as a strategy that could propel him to more runs scored and more steals than he’s amassed as an-almost-everyday starter.

    Harkening back to his late season debut (when he had more steals than at bats), this strategy would utilize his defense from jump street against the majority of (right-handed) starters, and in the games against lefties (during which he often was skunked), he’ll get a near-guaranteed on-base opportunity and chance to steal. I really could see this upping his BA, SB totals and definitely runs scored. The idea of continually putting him in against pitchers who overmatch him brings little benefit.

    Seems like a “less is more” strategy.

  21. scotly50

    I read that also. I would like the Reds to insert him at 3rd to start the season, and either move Suarez to SS or put him on the block and keep Peraza.

  22. Ron Payne

    I think Suarez has earned the third base job, but I think he’s the type of guy that would be willing to move to another position if it was best for the team.