MLB Free Agents 2018: Latest Rumors on Billy Hamilton, Cameron Maybin and More

The 2018 MLB free-agent class certainly does not boast the same strength as the 2019 group, where players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are slated to hit the market. Yet, plenty of solid contributors are still available this winter.

Rumors are starting to circulate about where some of the bigger names could be heading. Notable outfielders known for tremendous speed have been in the news as of late, and they could be the first dominos to fall in free agency.

Let us take a look at the latest buzz on surrounding such free agents and what teams have been connected to them.

        

Billy Hamilton on the Move?

Despite generally being one of the elite franchises of the past decade thanks to three World Series titles, the San Francisco Giants endured a dreadful 64-98 campaign last season. Unsurprisingly, they are looking for a lot of help this offseason.

One name to recently surface is Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton, who is drawing interest from the Giants, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi on Monday. Hamilton is one of several targets for San Francisco, who Morosi says are making a concerted effort to improve defensively in the outfield.

Hamilton would fit that bill, as his electric speed and fantastic arm have made him one of the most exciting center fielders. In addition to making highlight-reel catches over the years like the one below, he finished third among outfielders with 13 assists and second in double-plays started with four while boasting a 99.1 fielding percentage last season, per FanGraphs

Offensively, Hamilton is a dangerous leadoff man should he reach base. He has posted at least 50 stolen bases in each of the last four seasons, including a career-high 59 steals in 2017. However, he has never hit above .260 in his career, and his on-base percentage has hovered around .300 during that time.

Hamilton is a pending free agent with arbitration eligibility, but the Reds still control his rights. Whether they move him depends largely on Cincinnati's value of him financially.

If the Reds are not comfortable handing Hamilton a hefty raise from the $2.65 million he made last season, which he is certainly due for, then a trade would make sense. With the second-highest payroll in baseball, the Giants can accommodate Hamilton as a free agent.

Assuming this reported interest is real, look for the Reds to save some money by sending off Hamilton to be signed elsewhere while still getting a prospect and some cash back in return.

       

Royals Already Thinking Replacements?

The core of the Kansas City Royals' recent championships runs looks destined to split this winter, as Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are all heading for free agency. 

Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Royals are trying to bring back Hosmer and Moustakas, but they apparently have settled on letting Cain walk. This would leave a huge hole in the team's outfield, but there are reportedly replacements on the radar.

A recent World Series winner is one name to recently pop up, according to Morosi:

Cameron Maybin is talented player who has struggled with consistency at times. In addition to having great range in the outfield, Maybin is an average hitter who has hit over .260 three times in his career. He has shown flashes of being a top-end leadoff man, as he hit .315 in over 90 games in 2016, but he batted .228 last season, including .186 after being traded to the Houston Astros late in the summer.

This makes Maybin a high-reward player, but he does carry plenty of risk. He is coming off a five-year deal that paid him $5 million annually. The same annual salary for fewer years would be comfortable for the Royals, especially if they are going to try to keep up with the bidding for Hosmer and Moustakas.

However, another team could be in a better position financially to bid more for Maybin's upside, which could throw a wrench in Kansas City's plans. While Maybin is definitely no Cain, he is still a serviceable player who the Royals could regularly play near the bottom of the lineup or occasionally leading off. 

This team can still compete for a playoff position, especially by keeping its two prized infielders. Making a play for Maybin makes sense to stay in American League Central contention.

       

Reunion Unlikely for Ichiro

Along with guys like Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki is one of the most iconic Seattle Mariners of all time.

With the 44-year-old Suzuki now a free agent and still looking to play, could Seattle bring him back to possibly close out his career? That seems unlikely, at least according to the latest chatter around the league.

Per MLB.com's Greg Johns, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is looking for outfield help, but the team does not view Suzuki as a viable option. The Mariners are looking to get younger, which certainly does not help Suzuki's case.

Suzuki has not hit at least .300 since 2010, but his on-base percentage has been above .300 since that time. While Suzuki hit .291 in 2016, his average dipped back to the .255 it has hovered around since 2012. 

It is also unclear if Suzuki would be willing to go back to Seattle, as the only recent word of his intentions is that his camp reached out to the Giants, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle

A player like Suzuki is likely to wait very long before finding a contract, as guys his age are not primary options for clubs. Rather, teams will approach him after most of the roster is filled out and in need of a reserve player. 

Suzuki can still contribute to an MLB team, and it would make more sense for him to join a contending team in need a fourth outfielder, such as the Houston Astros. Expect Suzuki to play in his 18th season, but not for Seattle.

        

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference. Contract information is courtesy of Spotrac.

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