It was inevitable that Billy Butler would be leaving Kansas City this year, the only question was where he would be landing. We got our answer Tuesday night as it was announced that Butler was headed to the west coast to join the Oakland A’s, agreeing to a 3 year/30 million dollar contract. I have seen a lot of varying opinions on the signing and it’s affect on both Kansas City and Oakland, so let’s look at the fallout from Butler’s signing.
Let’s start with it’s affect on Oakland. They get the right handed bat they wanted for the middle of the order, and they plan on playing Butler at both DH and first base. Where will he bat in the order?
So there you go. Billy had been wanting to play some more first base the last few years and that just wasn’t going to happen in Kansas City, unless Eric Hosmer would injure himself again. Oakland also has a number of run producers in the middle of their offense, guys like Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, so Butler won’t be asked to be the main cog in the offensive machine. A lot of times in Kansas City Butler was asked to be “the guy”, which just wasn’t realistic. This will give Billy the chance to perform with a little less pressure than he had for the Royals. For all we know, Oakland’s hitting coaches Darren Bush and Marcus Jensen will be able to unlock some of the power that has been missing from Butler’s bat the last two seasons.
The affect on the Royals will be quite pronounced, as the team will finally be able to use the DH as a rotating position like they have wished for the last few seasons. This will give guys like Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon days off in the field, and even help a veteran like Omar Infante rest a day if they are experiencing minor injuries. In my mind this also means they need to sign not one, but two OF/DH types this offseason. If they are going to not only replace Butler’s numbers but also gain on them, they need more than just one bat. The honesty of this situation is that the Royals are not a great offensive force, and even to say they are “good” might be questionable. So if they are wanting to improve the offense, acquiring just one bat seems very shortsighted. Getting two bats, plus throwing in Jarrod Dyson occasionally gives them a chance to rotate players and use the DH the way they have dreamed of since 2012.
So despite seeing how this could be major plus for both teams, I’ve still heard a few fans make the comment that Billy didn’t really want to stay in Kansas City, and I just don’t believe that is true. I think Butler meant it when he said he loved Kansas City and wanted him to stay. I just don’t think Royals management was as keen about keeping him around. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star has done a good job of chronicling the Butler situation this offseason. Money was obviously an issue:
Plus there was this comment from Butler’s press conference with Oakland today:
There is also David Glass. I really feel his quote speaks volumes:
So as you can see, things weren’t as rosy and sweet between Butler and Royals management as some seem to think. Do you remember earlier in the season, when Butler’s production was coming into question while other Royals who weren’t producing(ie. Hosmer) seemed to be ignored? Or September, after Hosmer came back from injury and manager Ned Yost seemed to favor Josh Willingham at DH instead of Butler? After all this, and the expectations from fans for him to repeat his stellar 2012, it makes you wonder a bit why he would even want to come back. So the fact that he gave the Royals last chance tells me just how much Billy Butler wanted to stay a Royal:
So how much of this was about money?
As with baseball in general, money is always an issue. It plays an issue here too, but so does playing time and years on the contract. I personally feel like Butler would have taken less money if it meant he would get the same amount of playing time and only a 2 year contract. Instead the Royals had already planned to not have a fulltime DH and weren’t willing to go more than 1 year on a new deal with Butler. Plus, let’s be honest and frank here(or Susan, if you don’t like being frank). A baseball player has a very short shelf life when it comes to active playing time and years to really make big money, since most players don’t make a bunch of money early in their career. So when a player is approaching 30 and looking for a new deal, they are just as big on years as money when it comes to guaranteed contracts. So when the A’s offered more years(3) and more money than Billy made in 2014(8 mill in ’14, 10 mill in ’15-’17) it’s hard to turn that down, especially when you are coming off of the worst year of your major league career. Plus, it seemed like Oakland wanted Butler, which I’m not so sure about when it comes to the Royals. It’s easy for any fan to sit there and say “he just wanted the money”, but in his situation, the desire to be wanted outweighs a dollar total. Like this:
So was this about money? Maybe a bit. But it was also about more than just money. The honest truth is if the Royals had really wanted Butler back, he would be in Royal blue. Instead he will be wearing white cleats come February:
I am like most Royals fans in that I would have liked to have seen Butler return to Kansas City. But I understand that sometimes the financial aspect of baseball makes it hard for a team(especially a small market team) to keep a player for the duration of his career. It was a great 8 years that Billy Butler and the Kansas City Royals got to share together. I know I will never forget hearing Kauffman Stadium chant Billy’s name at the 2012 Home Run Derby. There was definite love that night between the fans and Butler, as there was during Game 3 of the ALDS this October when Butler stole second base. Butler loved Kansas City and for the most part Kansas City loved him. I wish the best for Butler in Oakland and plan on cheering him when he returns to ‘The K’ in April. We still have the memories, folks. We should always remember though that nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. The new chapter for the Royals involves no Billy Butler, as it should. Life and baseball moves on, as it always will.