CINCINNATI – It took Billy Hamilton until his fourth big-league season to crack the millionaires' club. The Reds are paying him less than they'll pay Ken Griffey Jr. this year - and Griffey hasn't played here since 2008.
But that's baseball, and the 26-year-old center fielder has many bigger paydays ahead that the one he agreed to for 2017.
The Reds agreed to one-year contracts with Hamilton and their three other arbitration-eligible players, the club announced Friday.
According to baseball insiders, the Reds will pay Hamilton $2.625 million - a 460 percent raise from the $570,000 he made last year.
SS Zach Cozart got $5.325 million ($2.925 million last year), LHP Tony Cingrani $1.825 million ($530K last year) and RHP Blake Wood $1.275 million ($600K last year).
Production and potential for dollar, Hamilton is arguably the team's most valuable player, even if the Reds' payroll doesn't show it. He's the eighth-highest paid player on the team. But that's owing to his limited MLB service - three years and change.
If you count Griffey Jr., Hamilton is ninth on the Reds payroll for 2017. That's because the Reds are still paying the 47-year-old Hall of Famer $3,593,750 in annual deferred payments - and will until 2025.
(In fairness to Griffey, that's because he willingly took less up-front money when he signed a nine-year, $116.5 million contract to come here in 2000. And he signed for less than market value at that. But with the Reds scrimping for savings, that's still a drag on the payroll).
Hamilton only became eligible for arbitration this year and is under Reds control through 2019. That applies to Cingrani, too.
Cozart and Wood will be eligible for free agency after 2017.
The deadline for players and clubs to exchange salary proposals on one-year contracts was 1 p.m. Friday.
The Reds have avoided arbitration hearings in recent years. Before reliever J.J. Hoover last year, they hadn't gone to arbitration since 2004.
Meanwhile, Hoover has signed a conditional deal with the Diamondbacks, according to insider Jon Heyman.
JJ Hoover signs with d-backs. 900K in majors, plus 425 incentives. MLB spring invite.