Washington Nationals: Billy Hamilton a trade target?

rjuckett
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 13: Billy Hamilton
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 13: Billy Hamilton /
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If the Cincinnati Reds choose to move him, there is a plausible deal with the Washington Nationals for Billy Hamilton. His speed, mixed with Trea Turner, is a game changer.

The Washington Nationals could take advantage of their speed game next season by looking at Billy Hamilton.

The Cincinnati Reds centerfielder will hit free agency after the 2019 season, but they may try to move him beforehand. With Trea Turner and Adam Eaton already on the team, speed figures to be a huge part of the Nats offense going forward. Hamilton’s ability to swipe 50-plus bags a season fits their goals.

A superb center fielder, Hamilton can run balls down with ease and turn opposition extra-base hits into singles. If Washington wants to consider it, he is a decent fit for the future.

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The cost of getting Hamilton is steep. Likely Michael Taylor or Brian Goodwin and another prospect gets it done. Hamilton’s production is not equal to Taylor. Although they strike out frequently, Taylor’s power and extra-base hit ability is higher than Hamilton. But, they are equal defensively. Hamilton’s ability to turn singles and walks into doubles makes him an instant run-scoring threat.

The more pressure Washington puts on other pitchers, they better they are.

The key to kicking the tires on Hamilton is if he can improve his slash line on another club. In 2017, Hamilton swiped 59 bags on a .247/.299/.335 line. His OPS+ of 66 would be roughly equal to Matt Wieters, but his ability to score runs gives extra value. Reaching base 188 times last season, he scored 85 runs.

This assumes Taylor or Goodwin have reached peak trade value. Taylor filled in with honors when Eaton went down for the year. At the bottom of the lineup, he slashed .271/.320/.486 for an impressive OPS+ of 105. But, he led the team in strikeouts with 137 and rarely draws walks. Although there is speed, he stole 17 bases.

If part of a package bringing another starting pitcher or bullpen arm with Hamilton, the Nats should consider it. Taylor will draw interest from other teams this winter as he is arbitration-eligible for the first time and under team control through the end of 2020.

Taylor’s ability has earned him a starting job in the outfield next year. His grand slam in Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series gives him hometown hero status. Any trade involving him is tough to swallow.

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But, with Goodwin, he is the biggest trade chip Washington has not named Bryce Harper. Although a deal is not likely, his name will appear on rumor sites. Hamilton will move when the Reds are ready. Chances are slim Washington grabs him, but there is a path to a deal if the Nats choose.

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