Marlins sign Billy Hamilton to minor league deal, acquire Ryan Lavarnway from Tigers
The Marlins announced a pair of veteran additions to the top tiers of the farming system tonight (as relayed by MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola). Miami signed the center fielder Billy Hamilton to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Jacksonville; they also acquired an unlisted receiver Ryan Lavarnway in a trade with the Tigers.
Hamilton appeared in the majors every season between 2013 and 21. One of the fastest players in the sport, he stole between 56 and 59 goals in each of his first four full campaigns with the Reds. This athleticism was also visible in defense, with Hamilton regularly ranked as an elite glove in center field. Base running and defense kept him in the everyday roster for five seasons, but his bat never developed as hoped.
The former second-round pick is a career .240/.293/.327 hitter in more than 3,200 major league board appearances. He has particularly struggled in recent seasons, posting a .213/.269/.299 line since the start of the 2019 campaign. Hamilton has taken on more of a journeyman role, adjusting to each of the Royals, Braves, Mets, Cubs and White Sox for the past three years.
Hamilton signed a minor league contract with the Mariners over the winter. He played 22 games with their top affiliate in Tacoma, going just .168/.263/.209. He triggered an opt-out in that deal on June 1 and he will travel to Florida after finding his final opportunity. The Fish will add a first-experienced glove-depth option behind a rather thin collection of centre-backs.
Miami gave most of the playing time to the position at Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De LaCruz, but both are likely stretched there defensively. Hamilton will have to show signs of life at the plate in Jacksonville to have a major league look, but he at least offers the potential for a side profile if he can fight his way onto the MLB roster.
Lavarnway, meanwhile, spent the entire season with the Tigers’ top affiliate in Toledo. The 34-year-old safety net had a strong showing with the Mud Hens, posting a .281/.385/.459 line through 174 plate appearances. It has walked at an excellent clip of 13.2% this year and generally has a solid top miner track record.
The third best receiver, Lavarnway reached the majors in ten of the eleven seasons between 2011 and 21 (2016 being the only exception). However, he’s only topped 100 board appearances twice and he hasn’t hit ten games in a season since 2015. He continues to bounce around the league as a valued depth option, spending time in 11 different organizations – including a five-game stint with Miami two years ago.
The Marlins have Jacob Stallings and Nick Fortes on the MLB roster at the moment. Henry Payton is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster, but he’s been on the minor league injured reserve for two weeks. From Nicola tweeted this afternoon that Henry recently underwent surgery on his right thumb, requiring another depth option to be added to the position.