Billy Butler Rumors

AL Central Links: Willingham, Butler, Tigers, Cabrera

Here's the latest from the home of the American League champion Tigers….

  • The Twins might not receive much more than a No. 4 starter in exchange for Josh Willingham, an AL executive tells Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities Radio.  "There's no doubt Josh has a very good contract, but I really doubt a team would trade a viable starting pitcher for a guy with a strong bat but who is limited defensively," the executive said.  "It's a lot easier to find a left-field or DH-type than to trade a good starting pitcher for one and then have to backfill the rotation spot."  The 33-year-old Willingham is owed $14MM through 2014 and posted an .890 OPS last season, but another AL executive says Denard Span is a better trade chip for Minnesota.
  • The Orioles have asked the Twins and Royals about Willingham and designated hitter Billy Butler, reports MLB.com's Paul Hagen.  Both the Twins and Royals are desperate for pitching and while the O's have some good young arms, I don't think Baltimore has the pitching depth to spare in either the majors or minors.
  • The Tigers want to keep backup catcher Gerald Laird but he will probably leave for a team that will give him more playing time, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
  • The Tigers are generally active early in the offseason, though FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi (Twitter link) thinks this won't be the case this winter as the club's plans were pushed back by their World Series appearance.
  • Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera as a good trade target for the Cardinals, and he suggests a few young Cards prospects who could go to Cleveland in exchange for the All-Star.

Stark On Rays, Volquez, Butler, Phillies

The chances of Cole Hamels getting traded are diminishing, but they haven't disappeared, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports. The Phillies are trying to sign the left-hander to a long-term deal, but will weigh trade offers if they can’t agree on an extension. Here are Stark’s latest rumors…

  • The Rays would be looking for a combination of high-end young pitchers, a young catcher and a controllable hitter if they discuss trades involving James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Wade Davis is drawing as much interest as Shields, now that he’s pitching well out of the Tampa Bay bullpen, Stark reports.
  • The Astros have told rival teams that they’d absorb a substantial percentage of Wandy Rodriguez’s salary in a trade if it allows them to get “the best value back.” 
  • The Padres aren’t shopping Edinson Volquez, but they haven’t made him untouchable.
  • Teams don’t expect the Marlins will trade Josh Johnson, who’s under contract for 2013.
  • Brandon McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems diminishes his trade value. “He's not going anywhere," one executive predicted to Stark.
  • The Nationals haven’t been focused on finding a center fielder.
  • Hunter Pence is attracting as much interest as anyone on the Phillies, including Hamels. However, the Phillies have downplayed their interest in trading the right fielder. Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco and Kyle Kendrick would be available if the Phillies decide to sell this month, Stark reports. Rollins can veto any trade and would only accept deals to West Coast contenders.
  • The Pirates have asked about tons of hitters, including Billy Butler, but they’re still in a “buy-low frame of mind.” The Royals have told clubs they’d have to be overwhelmed to part with Butler, Stark reports.
  • The Rockies are trying to move Marco Scutaro and Jason Giambi, but they’d have to be “bowled over” to deal relievers such as Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle and Matt Reynolds.

Royals Sending Mixed Signals On Francoeur

The Royals' willingness to trade Jeff Francoeur has fluctuated greatly in recent weeks, major league sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  An official with another club termed their interest in moving the veteran as "back and forth, every other week."

Francoeur should draw even more interest once Kevin Youkilis is traded as clubs looking for right-handed hitting could turn to the Royals rightfielder instead.  Kansas City is within striking distance in the AL Central but strong play from prospect Wil Myers could motivate the club to move the 28-year-old.

Unsurprisingly, Morosi hears that Francoeur is more available than Billy Butler, who is on a longer-term contract  One source said Kansas City would need a "[Zack] Greinke-type" offer in order to part with Butler.



Rosenthal On Hernandez, Castro, Butler

Trading Felix Hernandez for offense would make sense for the Mariners, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests. Hernandez, who’s under contract through 2014 and can block deals to ten teams, has a 3.52 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 94 2/3 innings this year. Here are more of Rosenthal’s notes from around MLB…

  • Few teams are willing to take on high salaries and part with premium prospects, Rosenthal writes. This would limit the Mariners’ potential trade partners were they to consider trading Hernandez.
  • The Mariners asked the Cubs about Starlin Castro and asked the Royals about Billy Butler in recent weeks, Rosenthal reports. They also talked to other clubs about potential trades for hitters, but none of the discussions progressed.
  • Virtually every team contacted the Cubs following a report indicating that Castro was available. However, the Cubs haven’t actually put Castro on the trading block.
  • Butler is also relatively untouchable, Rosenthal writes. The Royals consider him a core piece.

Rosenthal On Butler, Sizemore, Orioles

The latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports

  • The Phillies have serious interest in free agent Michael Cuddyer, although Rosenthal is skeptical of them adding a player who turns 33 in March.  Rosenthal says other left fielders are in the mix, but none are ideal.  One player Rosenthal did not mention is Josh Willingham, who I can see the Phillies considering.  As for a splash at shortstop, Rosenthal says Jose Reyes' leg problems scare the Phillies.
  • The Orioles were desperate to find a new GM and Dan Duquette was desperate to be a GM again, writes Rosenthal.  A press conference is expected this week to announce Duquette's three-year deal.
  • The Royals view Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer as their 3-4 hitters long-term, so don't look for Butler on the trade market this winter.  The 25-year-old is potentially under team control through 2015 on an extension signed in January.
  • Rosenthal sees Grady Sizemore landing with a high-revenue team for an amount close to the $9MM option Cleveland passed on.  I'd be surprised if he tops $7MM guaranteed.  Sizemore's agent Joe Urbon said his client prefers to play center field, but is open to a corner spot.
  • The Orioles are trying to add pitching depth via the six-year minor league free agent market.  Here's the list of minor league free agents from Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • Rosenthal says to look for Ryne Sandberg to be promoted to Phillies bench coach of Pete Mackanin is hired by the Cubs or Red Sox.  He also thinks recently-fired Cubs manager Mike Quade would then be a possibility to manage the Phillies' Triple-A club.

Moore On Butler, Moustakas, Hosmer, Ka’aihue

Royals GM Dayton Moore told John Sickels of Minor League Ball that it takes time to develop prospects and turn them into major leaguers. Moore says he understands fans' concerns about the Royals' recent history of losing and shares their excitement about the players currently in the Royals' highly touted system. Here are the details:

  • Moore says players can take a few years to develop, pointing to Billy Butler. The Royals extended Butler earlier in the year because he has improved every year and they "think he's about to take that to another level."
  • Hitters take time to develop, since it's hard for them "to develop beyond their level of competition." In other words they need to face good pitching to learn to hit it. 
  • The Royals are "very optimistic" about Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, partly because the two top prospects have experienced failure.
  • Moustakas "can stick at third base, no question," according to Moore, who likes the infielder's arm and body control.
  • Hosmer and Moustakas could push Kila Ka'aihue into a reserve role, but the Royals say he's capable of more. "We think he can hit .240-.260, hit 20-25 homers, .370 OBP," Moore said. "It will be a nice problem fitting all these guys in the lineup."
  • Christian Colon, the team's top pick in 2010, "can be an Orlando Cabrera type at short, or a Placido Polanco if he moves to second," Moore said.
  • Moore says the Royals need more speed and athleticism. The GM says his ideal team would have a center fielder like Adam Jones or Torii Hunter - someone with speed, defense and power.

Billy Butler Agrees To Extension With Royals

SUNDAY, 9:31am: Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star has the financial details of the deal (Twitter link). Butler will earn $3MM in 2011, and $8MM per year from 2012 to 2014. The contract also includes a $2MM signing bonus and a $12.5MM club option for 2015, with a $1MM buyout.

SATURDAY, 8:03pm: The Royals have confirmed the agreement in a press release. It's a four-year contract with a fifth year option for 2015.

10:11amBilly Butler told MLB.com's Dick Kaegel that he and the Royals have agreed to a four-year, $30MM contract extension. The deal buys out all three of his arbitration-eligible years plus one year of free agency. Butler is represented by Greg Genske of Legacy Sports.

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows that Butler filed for $4.3MM in arbitration earlier this week while the Royals countered with $3.4MM. Kansas City recently picked up an extra $12.4MM when Gil Meche unexpectedly retired.

Butler, 25 in April, has hit .309/.375/.480 with 36 homers over the last two seasons. Just 28 players boast an OPS that high during that time (min. 1,000 PA), but Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitzki, and Butler are the only ones to do so at age 25 or younger. Clearly, the Royals' first baseman has emerged as one of the game's most dangerous young hitters.

Kansas City owns the game's best farm system, and they've now ensured that their best position player at the Major League level will be around when some of those highly touted prospects start to arrive. MLBTR's readers discussed Butler's future with the Royals after the team traded Zack Greinke to the Brewers last month.


Arbitration Figures: Tuesday

Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit arbitration figures. Let's keep track of those figures here, with the latest updates on top. You can track all of the players that avoided arbitration today here.

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Discussion: Billy Butler’s Future In Kansas City

With Zack Greinke now a Milwaukee Brewer, the last thing Royals fans want to think about is another of their team's few established stars leaving Kauffman Stadium.  No, it's not Joakim Soria, but rather Billy Butler.  The young first baseman is headed to arbitration for the first time this winter, and how the Royals approach this situation will tell us if the club considers Butler to be part of their long-term plans.

Butler, 24, has blossomed into one of the game's up-and-coming stars, posting an .855 OPS over the last two seasons as Kansas City's everyday first baseman.  Even though his home run numbers dropped from 21 in 2009 to 15 last season, Butler is still far and away the biggest threat in the K.C. lineup, especially now that David DeJesus has been traded.

With Butler's production and young age in mind, surely it makes sense for the Royals to sign Butler to an extension that carries at least through his arbitration years, right?  Well, not necessarily.  The Royals already have another promising first baseman on the major league roster in Kila Ka'aihue, and another (Eric Hosmer) is one of the top prospects in K.C.'s vaunted minor league system. 

Ka'aihue got his first significant taste of major league playing time last season.  He posted a .702 OPS in 206 plate appearances overall, and hit .274/.361/.548 playing every day in September.  The Hawaii native has put up big minor league numbers over the last three years, and though it took him six years just to reach Triple-A, Ka'aihue began his pro career at age 18 and only turns 27 in March.

Hosmer was picked third overall by K.C. in the 2008 amateur draft, and has so far lived up to that selection by hitting .298/.378/.483 in his three pro seasons.  Hosmer is projected to move up to Triple-A in 2011 and barring any unexpected setbacks will be a huge part of the Royals' future.

The question facing the cash-conscious Royals is simple: do they lock up Butler now in the hopes that he'll be entering his prime years when the club is ready to contend in 2013, or do the Royals shop Butler at the trade deadline and see if they can score even more premium prospects for the first baseman?  If Butler is dealt, then Ka'aihue takes over first base duties and it frees up the DH spot for Hosmer in 2012 and beyond (or, vice versa, with Hosmer at first and Ka'aihue as the DH).

If the Royals sign Butler to a big multi-year extension, then they're going all-in with him and Ka'aihue becomes the one on the trading block once Hosmer is ready.  If the Royals sign Butler to just a one-year contract for 2011 (worth probably between $3-4MM), then the team is basically just holding off on any long-term decisions until they can see what they really have in Ka'aihue and Hosmer.  If I had to guess, I'd say the latter option is more likely to happen, though K.C. might also feel a Butler deal covering two arbitration years makes financial sense and gives a team a bit of good local press in the wake of the Greinke trade.


Odds & Ends: Nakajima, Butler, Managers

On this date six years ago, the Dodgers released a 20-year-old righty named Joakim Soria, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Soria was later signed by the Padres out of the Mexican League and then snagged by the Royals in the 2006 Rule 5 draft.  He's now one of the game's best closers.  On to today's links…