Fay to Reds: Don't trade Billy Hamilton

Give him two more years in Cincinnati
Posted at 8:00 AM, Dec 06, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Dick Williams goes into his first Winter Meetings at the top of the Reds baseball organizational chart without much of a to-do list.

"Our focus has been preserving the core we had, so we didn't expect a really busy offseason," he said at Redsfest. "And I think everything's been slowed down by the CBA (collective-bargaining agreement). Now, it will pick back up. We've been able to keep working on the lower-profile target we have in the free-agent market."

But I think one thing should top his don't-do list: Don't trade Billy Hamilton.

The Reds have gotten inquiries about Hamilton. And, in one way, trading Hamilton would make sense for the Reds. It would open a spot for Jose Peraza.

The Reds will try to trade Zack Cozart and/or Brandon Phillips to open a spot for Peraza. But if they can't move either of them -- and it will be difficult in both cases -- they may be tempted to trade Hamilton.

There's value there.

Hamilton is young (25), cheap (he's eligible for arbitration this year for the first time) and has enormous potential. And here's some evidence that his talent is recognized throughout the sport: He's one of the 50 players on the list of potential U.S. participants in the World Baseball Classic.

Name another career .248 hitter who makes that list.

Williams isn't actively seeking to trade Hamilton, but I'd have to be blown away by an offer -- two Top-10 prospects in all of baseball blown away -- for Hamilton to make it because of that potential.

Hamilton's speed, daring and instincts on the base paths, as well as his defense, make him unique. If he hits .260 with a .321 on-base percentage, as he did this year, he's a very good big-leaguer. If he hits .293 with a .369 on-base percentage, as he did after the All-Star break this year, he's a star.

With the Reds in rebuild mode, they'd be wise to give Hamilton this year and next to prove he is the guy we saw after the break this year.

Hamilton is fully recovered from the oblique injury that ended his season in late August. He's living in Cincinnati this offseason so he can work with Billy Hatcher. That was the plan last offseason, but the recovery from shoulder surgery kept it from happening.

Hamilton was still dealing with the shoulder during spring training. I think that was the biggest part of his slow start.

For all those reasons, I would not trade him.

He's also probably the most fun of any player on the roster to watch. That's a big deal when you're trying to move tickets.

That said, the Reds need a place to play Peraza every day. If they can't trade Cozart or Phillips, they've got to look at moving on from Phillips -- even if that means designating him.

But they shouldn't take the easy route and trade Hamilton.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at