The Reds have made it known that starting pitching is their main concern over the offseason. It should be the talk of the town, because that was their glaring weakness. However, the Reds have to make major upgrades at other positions. One of those positions the Reds should look to upgrade is center field.
The Billy Hamilton Issue
Billy Hamilton is a player that receives both praise and disdain from the Cincinnati fan base. His blazing speed, electric ability on the bases, and nightly highlight reel catches make him a fan favorite. His on-base percentage and weak hitting abilities make him a liability on offense.
It was always perceived the Reds could overlook his lack of skill at the plate if he could still manage to get on base. The average walk rate in 2018 was 8.5%. Hamilton came close to that last season, but it was the best of his career for a full season. This could be seen as him improving, but that is a gamble to assume such. It also does not excuse his poor batting average each year, where he topped out at .260 in 119 games in 2016.
Reds owner Bob Castellini was always a fan of Hamilton and did not want to trade him, but has recently made it known he is open to the idea. With the recent willingness to deal the five-year veteran, who could be a viable option to replace him.
A Possible Answer
The Reds have shown interest in one Diamondback in Patrick Corbin, but the one they should focus on is center fielder A.J. Pollock. Pollock brings much more power to the plate, above average defense, and will not be the most expensive free agent. He won’t be cheap, but the Reds could sign him and sign an above average pitcher as well, while possibly receiving a prospect for Hamilton. Not necessarily a great prospect, but anyone has a chance to surprisingly thrive in the show.
The Reds’ offense has not been the problem. Between Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, Jesse Winker and even Scott Schebler, the Reds can hit. Add in Nick Senzel at some point next season, with Jose Peraza improving, they can be one of the top offensive teams in the National League. Now imagine that lineup with Pollock leading off every day and the offense becomes a threat opposing pitchers would not be excited to face.
Trading Defense for Offense
Adding Pollock would not make them feared 1-9 like the Red Sox, but it would certainly make them a force to be reckoned with. Defensively, the Reds would lose their best defensive weapon, but Pollock is also a quality defender so the loss would be minimal.
Tucker Barnhart is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, Votto is a former Gold Glove winner, Schebler can hold his own. The Reds would still have some weak spots in the field, but the hope would be that the offense should make up for any runs the defensive follies would allow.
Add in one or two signings on the mound and Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle continuing to improve, the Reds would be legitimate contenders for a wild-card spot. Their biggest challenge would be battling with arguably the toughest division in baseball, at least it will be if the Reds can live up to the hype of being a possible contender.
Center field is not the biggest need, but it remains a need. Pollock will not solve all the Reds’ problems, but it will solve an offensive one. It is unlikely the Reds will sign Pollock, but they should absolutely look into the possibility of it.