Creating a role for Billy Hamilton on the 2020 Mets

Chicks may dig the long ball but dudes love speed. At least the dudes who frequent this space. If you’ve been here awhile, you’ll no doubt recall the love and admiration that flowed towards Eric Young Jr. Or how people went bananas when Juan Lagares successfully stole nine bases in 10 attempts in his final 18 games of 2014. Also, there’s the continuous fascination with Mallex Smith. And no mention of 21st Century speedy guys with limited offensive ability is complete without Billy Hamilton.

Okay, let’s make no bones about it – Hamilton stinks. C’mon say it with me – Hamilton stinks. In case you guys in the back didn’t hear it – Hamilton stinks.

He came up at the end of 2013 and in 13 games he posted a .902 OPS and was successful on 13 of his 14 SB attempts. Bonus points if you remember the only catcher to throw him out. Hint: It was a Met. But after that glorious debut, here are Hamilton’s yearly OPS+ figures: 81, 55, 77, 66, 69 and 50. In his career, Hamilton has 3,089 PA and a 68 OPS+. It’s hard to wrap your head around the putridness of that number.

In his last year with the Mets, Jose Reyes put up a 62 OPS+ and we lost our minds that the Mets gave him 251 PA that season. Now, imagine giving a guy pretty much that bad, 3,000+ PA over seven seasons. They say that one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. It’s pretty clear the Reds were insane when it came to objectively valuing Hamilton.

Yet even the Reds gave up on Hamilton, letting him leave as a free agent following the 2018 season. But another team stepped up to the plate, as the Royals signed him. No, it wasn’t an NRI. It was for $5.25 million with a $7.5 million mutual option ($1 million buyout) for 2020. Kudos to his agent for getting him that deal.

You may find this hard to believe but the Royals found out he couldn’t hit and DFAd Hamilton in mid-August. He was picked up by the Braves and had, for him, a strong final six weeks of the season, posting an 81 OPS+. He was a valuable bench piece for Atlanta down the stretch. Still, it’s hard to imagine the Braves paying $7.5 million for a backup who can’t hit.

We’ve been focusing – correctly – on what Hamilton can’t do. But it’s important to note what he can do. He can run and he can play defense. If you look to maximize the things that he can do and minimize the thing that he can’t, you could have a useful player on your hands.

And it just so happens that the two things that Hamilton can do are things that the Mets need.

With Lagares taking his balsa wood bat elsewhere for 2020, it makes sense for the Mets to replace the things he allegedly brought to the table. Of course, Lagares had a (-2) DRS and a (-2.9) UZR last year and had 4 SB in 133 games played. By contrast, Hamilton had a 7 DRS, a 7.9 UZR and swiped 22 bases in 119 games.

The trick is to get Hamilton’s pluses without suffering his huge negative.

When assembling your bench, you want your reserves to give you something that your starters don’t. Assuming the Mets play Brandon Nimmo in center field next year, it’s imperative that they have a good defensive outfielder on their bench, to give the club something they don’t have.

It would make a ton of sense for the Mets to add Hamilton – or someone similar – as long as the plan is not to start him more than once a month. Instead, the plan should be to use him as a defensive replacement in the late innings in games with a one or two-run lead. Or use him as a pinch-runner in games with a one or two-run deficit.

If the Mets were disciplined enough to use him in that way, what would his final line look like? Something in the ballpark of 100 games played, 200 defensive innings and around 50 PA. That would be completely different from anything we’ve seen from the Mets recently. In the last 20 years, the fewest number of PA for a guy who played in at least 100 games in a season was the 143 totaled by pinch-hitter deluxe Lenny Harris back in 2001.

A defensive specialist in this role would have value to the Mets. The question is: How much is it really worth? You can be pretty certain that it’s not $7.5 million. Back in 2017, we looked at what top clubs pay their fourth outfielder and the average for the top 15 teams in Opening Day payroll was $2.5 million. Would Hamilton in the role described above be worth $2.5 million? FanGraphs Dollar Values say that Hamilton’s 0.3 fWAR with the Royals in 2019 was worth $2.7 million.

Could that role produce 0.3 fWAR? Maybe, I don’t know. Perhaps the better question is if the Mets should spend that much money on a guy to play that little. According to Cot’s 40-man payroll, they paid Luis Avilan $1.6 million for 32 IP and a (-0.1) fWAR last year. And $2.4 million to Adeiny Hechavarria for 151 PA and a (-0.1) fWAR. In that context, $2 million is certainly not unreasonable.

Will Hamilton’s late-season “surge” get him a guaranteed deal in 2020 and if so, how much above minimum wage will he get? It’s certainly something the Mets should track. And if somehow Hamilton does get another free agent payday like he got this past offseason, the Mets could look to fill that specialist role with Peter Bourjos, who likely will be available on an NRI.

17 comments for “Creating a role for Billy Hamilton on the 2020 Mets

  1. October 29, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Should have mentioned it in the article but in 1974 Herb Washington appeared in 92 games without an AB.

  2. October 29, 2019 at 11:18 am

    It is so strange to see you suggesting that the Mets sign Hamilton. I like the idea of Hamilton or Maybin as the 5th outfielder and primary defensive replacement.

  3. Mike W
    October 29, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Washington was called a designated runner.

    I dont like Hamilton because he is basically an automatic out.

    How about a deal for Starling Marte.

    • October 29, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      You have to give up a lot to get Marte and he costs $11.5 million

      • MattyMets
        October 31, 2019 at 8:28 pm

        If I was his coach, I’d outfit him in every legal form of body armor and have him stand hovering over home plate. when he gets on base he’s a disruptive force. Getting to first is the issue.

  4. October 29, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I’m all in on this concept.

  5. NYM6986
    October 29, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    If we were the Yankees, where even
    their batboy could step in and hit, then signing a defensive specialist would work. We need some offense from that backup OF spot and as injuries happen, having a great runner and defensive specialist as our 5th OF would expose that weakness big time.
    If we sure up our BP then Nimmo and Conforto can be adequate in CF. Why not have Rosario take some reps in SP and perhaps he can slide into that role late in games and we could stick Lowrie or one of our AAA infielders in for defense at the SS position?

  6. TJ
    October 29, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    My understanding is that the MLB rosters will expand from 25 to 26 next season. I think that is long overdue, but had hoped they used it as a bargaining chip to get rid of the DH, but that’s my own issue. Regarding Hamilton, he or his type of player can get consideration given the e tea roster spot, but it really depends on the mix of bench players at their disposal.

    • Richie Blondet
      November 5, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Hi Brian,

      What would you say to a Mets-Detroit trade that brought in or included as part of a larger deal CF-JaCoby Jones to Queens?

      The negatives:

      – Lifetime .211 hitter
      – Dreadful career OBP. (.276)
      – DRS was -13 in limited game play (due to season ending injury) during the 2019 season. Making him one of the leaders at the very bottom among all OFs.
      – Averages a high K total vs. Walks career-wise.

      The Positives:

      – He’s 27 going on 28.
      – His salary (including arbitration) is cheap and will be below $2 million
      – In 2018 his DRS was +21. Making him #1 among all MLB OFs.
      – His 2019 slash line were career highs (.235/.310/.430)
      – He’s right-handed with pop.

      Despite his DRS this season (which are not conclusively representative of how much defensive range value an OF has or factors in where a manager will position one to play in the OF, thus contributing to those DRS numbers going South) and historical offensive woes, I think he is young enough, cheap enough, and has enough of a potential upside to improve offensively and defensively (especially in the latter with new Mets manager Carlos Beltran) that he would be worth pursuing. He’s not as fast as Billy Hamilton but is as fast or hustles a la Nimmo. He’s also got a greater potential upside offensively than Lagares, Hamilton, and Bourjous.

      Detroit has Victor Reyes in the fold ready to play CF, as he did during Jones absence. I’m thinking the Mets could realistically get him for A-ball level MiLB players/prospects.

      What do you think factoring his salary, career numbers vs. what he did in 2019 at the plate, and his career defense vs. his DRS in 2019?

      • November 5, 2019 at 10:31 pm

        I remember being interested in JaCoby Jones back when the Mets traded Ike Davis to Pittsburgh. But he hasn’t really done a lot in the majors.

        Trade for him? Eh, maybe for Jacob Rhame.

        • Richie Blondet
          November 5, 2019 at 10:50 pm

          Sho’ you right. The numbers are there for all to see. He hasn’t lived up to his potential. With that said he checks off all the things the Mets need. He is right handed, he’s cheap and under team control for a couple years, and he is a true CF. Plus, he has pop. NY Sports media people are name dropping Jackie Bradley Jr. in a potential trade for Dom Smith and more. Why trade for a 30 year old free agent to be at the end of next season and pay the 9 million plus he’s owed when you can basically have the same player for 8 million less?

          I was thinking more position players than a pitcher. But so be it. Jacob Rhame it is. Make it happen!…

  7. TexasGusCC
    October 30, 2019 at 1:41 am

    As Mets 360’s president and sole member of the Billy Hamilton fan club, I say it was Juan Centeno, and that was after Jay Bruce stole two bases off Centeno earlier in the game!!! Here is the article:
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/2872087

    However, Billy Hamilton is too limited a player to be an asset on this Mets team. Maybin kind of fits; the Japanese import Akiyama may fit; but although I didn’t see as many games this year as last year, I don’t know that the Mets CFers were the problem this year. Cano being a shell of himself is more of a problem; Davis and Smith in LF is more of a problem; Ramos having defensive issues is more of a problem. I have no problem with Nimmo and Conforto but that bullpen… oh, I feel sick.

    • October 30, 2019 at 7:27 am

      I agree that CF isn’t a problem. Which is why you don’t spend money there and look for a low-cost backup.

  8. October 30, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Hamilton for a base deal of $1m and another $1m w/ incentives like BA, PA, and steals, and bring him on. Pinch runner in the late innings that can steal a base to help win a game, save a run to win a game and so on. If JD Davis is the everyday LF, and Nimmo the regular CF, Mets will need someone to fill this defensive late inning specialst role anyway. Who do they have for this, someone in AAA, Dom Smith (no way) anyone ? Correct, no one.
    Biggest difference between WS team Nats and Mets ? Defense.

  9. Chris F
    October 30, 2019 at 10:13 am

    I think Alexander Hamilton would be a better add to the Mets than Billy Hamilton.

    How this guy is in the major leagues astonishes me. I’d put Dom Smith in CF before sinking 1 dollar on Hamilton.

    • José
      October 30, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Alexander?

      Nyuk nyuk nyuk

  10. Eraff
    November 6, 2019 at 7:39 am

    Re-sign Wheeler. Trade Noah for Betts. Nimmo, Conforto, McNeil, Davis, Smith, still available for Roster or Trade.

    Solves the RH OF Bat and The CF “Problem”…and gets all of you to stop talking about guys like Billy Hamilton…possibly the best outcome of such a trade 🙂

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