Are the Reds open to trading Hamilton?

No deals imminent, but club not ruling out making moves

Are the Reds open to trading Hamilton?

CINCINNATI -- During the past two seasons of rebuilding, the Reds have not been coy about their willingness to listen to trade offers for their players. Several of them have been moved in that span.

ESPN's Buster Olney reported on Tuesday that the Reds have listened to inquiries about center fielder and dynamic leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton, among other players, during this Hot Stove season. No deals appeared imminent, however.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Reds do not comment on specific trade talks, but general manager Dick Williams recently told MLB.com that his club "had inquiries on a lot of our players," but he noted that there hasn't been strong enough interest from clubs yet for Cincinnati to part with any of its assets.

If the Reds were willing to move Hamilton, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, they would be selling high. That is based on his offensive improvement in the second half of 2016 following two down seasons. Overall last season, the 26-year-old batted .260 with a .321 on-base percentage and 58 stolen bases. He did not play after Sept. 4 because of a strained left oblique.

After the All-Star break, Hamilton batted .293 with a .369 on-base percentage and regained his spot at the top of the order following a demotion to the back of the lineup.

Defensively, Hamilton was a Gold Glove finalist for the third straight year. He led National League center fielders with 15 defensive runs saved and a 13.3 ultimate zone rating, according to Fangraphs.com.

Olney suggested that the interested teams, especially with big market spending flexibility, could employ Hamilton as a part-time starter and game-changing pinch-runner in high leverage situations. He has 56 or more steals in each of the past three seasons.

If the Reds dealt Hamilton, they could move corner outfielder Scott Schebler to center field and create a spot for Jesse Winker, who is ranked as the club's No. 3 prospect. Another option would be to play infielder/outfielder Jose Peraza in center field if the Reds are unable to move shortstop Zack Cozart and/or second baseman Brandon Phillips this offseason.

Neither Schebler nor Peraza would be able to equal Hamilton's defensive skills -- which is something the Reds value greatly. Peraza would likely be able to slide into the leadoff spot effectively.

Unless Williams is blown away with a huge offer, dealing Hamilton before the 2017 season may not be the most prudent move for Cincinnati.

Hamilton still has three years of club control before he can become a free agent. While the Reds are rebuilding and finished last in the NL Central the past two seasons, they view themselves on the back end of that project. That's especially after finishing one game below .500 for the second half in '16, with Hamilton being one of the reasons for the team's improvement as a top of the order catalyst.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.