The Royals and Blue Jays have talked about a trade that would send Billy Butler and prospects to Toronto, The Globe & Mail's Jeff Blair reports (Twitter links). No deal is imminent, however, as Blair says the talks haven't "moved beyond [the] discussion stage."
Butler was rumored to be on the shopping block earlier this winter, especially during the Royals' pursuit of Carlos Beltran. Even with Beltran now a Yankee, ESPN's Jayson Stark reported on Tuesday that the Royals could still be looking to move Butler, and would perhaps then attempt to sign Nelson Cruz. The rationale behind a Butler trade would be to free up payroll space and also free up the Royals' DH spot so a defensively-challenged player like Cruz wouldn't be locked into playing the field every day.
Butler will earn $8MM in 2014 and the Royals hold a $12.5MM option (with a $1MM buyout) on his services for 2015. The 27-year-old slugger hit .289/.374/.412 with 15 homers in 668 PA in 2013, solid numbers that nevertheless represented a step back from the .854 OPS and 21 homers that Butler averaged from 2009-12.
It seems that Toronto wouldn't be able to make a move for Butler until they could unload Adam Lind, the team's incumbent designated hitter. Lind outhit Butler (23 homers, .854 OPS) in 147 fewer PA in 2013, but Lind is three years older, posted subpar numbers from 2010-12 and struggles to hit left-handed pitching, whereas Butler has produced against both lefties and righties. The Pirates showed interest in Lind earlier this offseason but trade talks with the Jays didn't develop.