Friday marks the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange dollar amounts, and the Cincinnati Reds have four such players with whom they’ll be negotiating terms. Zack Cozart, Blake Wood, Tony Cingrani, and Billy Hamilton constitute the team's arb-eligible portion for the 2017 season, and it was Billy Hamilton who became the first to settle on an agreed upon number with the Reds, as Fan Rag's Jon Heyman reported.
Billy hamilton, reds settle at $2.625M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2017
At $2.625 million, Billy sets a pretty nice baseline for his further arbitration years, as his future salaries will be escalated based upon this first year number. And for the Reds' sake, they're a bit fortunate that the specific talents that Hamilton brings to the table don't always garner the types of big paydays in arbitration as, say, dingers and RBIs.
At 53.1 Defensive Runs Saved since the start of the 2014 season, Hamilton ranks as the third most valuable defender in all of baseball in that time according to FanGraphs, while also ranking head and shoulders above the rest of his peers as the best baserunner in the game during that stretch, as well. You'd think that kind of electricity would carry more weight in the negotiation process, but while those skills have found their way into being valued by the likes of fWAR and bWAR, the arbitration system still favors more traditional stats. For instance, Cozart - similarly valuable for his great defense despite subpar offense - earned a comparable $2.35 million in his first arbitration year back in 2014.
So, despite him having accrued 7.0 bWAR in his career, having hit just .248/.297/.334 in his 1547 PA simply brought down his bargaining power. For instance, Pedro Alvarez - a player with nearly the exact opposite skillset as Hamilton - earned $4.25 million in his first arb-eligible year despite having been worth just 4.3 bWAR in his career to that point, largely because he'd belted 86 dingers in 1800+ PAs. Of course, Billy's laundry list of nagging injuries and the inability to stay healthy through an entire season to date certainly factored in here, as well.
Congrats, Billy, on the first huge payday of your career.