Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball and when the Reds named him their Opening Day center fielder tons of people got excited to see how many bases he could steal as a rookie despite not being much of a hitter. So far the answer is … well, it turns out he can actually hit too.
Hamilton went hitless in his first 12 at-bats of the season, but since then he’s hit .294 with four homers, 17 total extra-base hits, and a .751 OPS in 60 games. This season the National League as a whole has posted a .702 OPS, so Hamilton has been a well above-average hitter for two months now.
Oh, and he’s also stolen 28 bases in those 60 games, which is why everyone was so damn excited for his arrival in the first place.
Hamilton hasn’t done a good job controlling the strike zone and his on-base skills could definitely still use plenty of work for him to fully take advantage of his amazing speed, but he’s 23 years old with a lifetime .730 OPS through 78 games for the Reds and he’s been on fire this month hitting .356 with eight steals, three homers, and a .967 OPS in 15 games.
What an incredibly fun player.
Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.
Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.
Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.
Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.
Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.
Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.
Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.
Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.
Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.