Stealing bases were one of the things Joe Maddon did not stress and as the Chicago Cubs re-tool, checking in on Billy Hamilton would be a smart move
It’s fitting that the team ranked 29th in stolen bases was also thrown out the most on the bases this past season. With more outs on the base-path (62) than stolen bases (45), something needs to change for the Chicago Cubs.
Whether that be the players in the lineup or the mindset around it, the Cubs cannot continue to let this be an area of weakness. With the overhaul of the coaching staff going on, looking to sign a speedster or two would go a long way this offseason. One free agent that would actually fill a few holes in this respect is Billy Hamilton.
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Hamilton is a 29-year-old center fielder who was a mainstay with the Reds but spent time with both Kansas City and Atlanta in 2019. Through seven MLB seasons, Hamilton has 299 stolen bases. That is an average of a little over 42 per season, right around par with the Cubs team total in 2019.
The best part about Hamilton is the cost he would come at. In 2019, he signed a one-year-deal with the Royals for $5.25 million. Keep in mind the Cubs signed Daniel Descalso for two years at $5 million. He is worth taking a chance on for his speed alone and would help enhance a Cubs lineup that often times seems one-dimensional.
Another reason Hamilton could prove valuable is the value he could bring defensively in center field. The Cubs are notably looking to upgrade at the spot, as Albert Almora finished 2019 with a WAR of -1.0.
With a 2019 WAR of 0.3, Hamilton could step in, not as the everyday guy, but as a productive outfielder based on his speed alone. It’s also worth noting he has a higher career fielding percentage and range factor than Almora, so we would even get a defensive upgrade.
It’s no question that the team needs to make a few major moves this offseason, but a minor move like signing Hamilton could make room for some bigger acquisitions in other areas of need. If the team makes the culture sign in Nicholas Castellanos like everyone is hoping, Hamilton is the other move that makes sense.
Either find a trade partner for Almora or send him to Triple-A, re-sign Castellanos and add Hamilton. With these moves, the Cubs can utilize Jason Heyward and Billy Hamilton interchangeably in center with Castellanos in right. On his off-days, move Heyward to right with Hamilton in center. The production is still there, just in the form of base-running.
As Chicago looks for a culture shift, bringing in players that add to areas that have not been emphasized or executed in previous seasons is the first step. Adding a veteran who is known for being the class of base-running would almost certainly help this change. To improve the outfield, re-sign Castellanos for his bat, but bring in Hamilton for his fielding and speed.