The new year has begun, and Billy Hamilton is still a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
That is despite rumors of a possible trade to the San Francisco Giants early in the offseason, the need to make room for Jesse Winker in the outfield, fears Hamilton has plateaued as a hitter and concern about whether or not he can ever make it through a season healthy.
This week came word team owner Bob Castellini could be the reason no move has been made.
That’s interesting because while Castellini is obviously a very successful businessman, he’s also an unabashed Reds fan — and there is no doubt Hamilton, for all his flaws, is a fan favorite.
Whenever mention of a potential Hamilton trade is made, our Reds Facebook page goes nuts, mostly with people who would hate to see him go even if he hasn’t master bunting yet.
The 27-year-old might be a .247 career hitter, but he is disruptive on the base paths and a wonder to watch in the outfield.
He’s also provided some of the few non-Joey Votto-related reasons to get excited about the team over the past four years as the last run at a championship fades into memory.
Castellini said last January he was still high on Hamilton’s potential and that he hopes the Mississippi native is a Red forever.
(That’s no exaggeration — that’s really the word he used: Forever.)
Could that hold back the team from getting better in this case? Should he trust his baseball people, hired to use their expertise to make the club the best it can be, in this situation and let a move be made if it is there?
Or could Castellini’s fan-like perspective be a positive here?
No team should let its fans dictate personnel moves regularly, but sometimes following their wishes can be wise, especially when it comes to developing a loyal base of supporters in the long run.
Maybe keeping the flawed-but-entertaining Hamilton makes sense as far as that goes — and of course he might help sell a few more tickets even if the team is bad again this summer.
Of course, this is just one report regarding Castellini and Hamilton.
There might be nothing to it, or it might be blown out of proportion.
There could be plenty of other reasons a deal hasn’t been made, the most likely being the Giants just haven’t offered what the Reds really want.
Recent history also tells us not to rule out a trade still happening.
Last winter, the Reds waited until late January to pull off a trade of starting pitcher Dan Straily. The Miami Marlins expressed interest in him early in the offseason, but Cincinnati held out until it got the one prospect it most coveted from Miami’s farm system: Luis Castillo.
General manager Dick Williams has indicated the club was content not to make a deal if Castillo wasn’t part of it, and that patience ultimately was rewarded.
Now Castillo has the look of the next Reds ace, that approach looks to have paid off big time.
Could the same thing happen with Hamilton?
Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 13.