Billy Butler Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
10:11am: Billy 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.
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.
- MLB.com's Jane Lee tweets that Craig Breslow filed for $1.55MM, but the Athletics countered with $1.15MM.
- Zachary Levine of The Houston Chronicle has some figures for the Astros. Wandy Rodriguez filed for $10.25MM, Hunter Pence for $6.9MM. The team countered with $8MM and $5.15MM, respectively.
- Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star tweets that Billy Butler filed for $4.3MM while the Royals countered with $3.4MM.
- Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Javier Lopez filed for $2.875MM and Andres Torres for $2.6MM (Twitter link). The Giants countered with $2MM and $1.8MM, respectively.
- John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Johnny Cueto filed for $3.9MM, but the Reds countered with $3MM. He adds that Edinson Volquez filed for $2MM, the team $1.3MM.
- Mike DiGiovanna of The Los Angeles Times tweets Jered Weaver filed for $8.8MM, but the Angels countered with $7.365MM. He adds that Mike Napoli filed for $6.1MM, the team for $5.3MM.
- Tom Haudricourt of The Journal Sentinal has the figures for some prominent Brewers (Twitter link). Rickie Weeks filed for $7.2MM, Shaun Marcum for $5MM, and Kameron Loe for $1.65MM. The team countered with $4.85MM, $3MM, and $1.055MM, respectively.
- MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets that James Loney filed for $5.25MM, and the Dodgers for $4.7MM.
- Gurnick adds that Hong-Chih Kuo filed for $3.075MM, the Dodgers countered with $2.55MM (on Twitter).
- Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun has the skinny on two of the Orioles' key players (Twitter link). Luke Scott filed for $6.85MM and Jeremy Guthrie for $6.5MM. The team countered with $5.7MM and $5MM, respectively.
- Joe Christensen of The Star Tribune reports that Delmon Young filed for $6.25MM, the Twins $4.65MM (on Twitter).
- Christensen also reports that Francisco Liriano filed for $5MM and the Twins $3.6MM (on Twitter).
- Christensen adds that Kevin Slowey filed for $3.1MM, the Twins $2.3MM (on Twitter).
- Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that R.A. Dickey filed for $4.7MM, the Mets $3.35MM.
- Andy McCullough of The Star Ledger reports that Angel Pagan filed for $4.2MM, and the Mets for a little over $3.06MM (on Twitter).
- SI.com's Jon Heyman tweets that Josh Hamilton filed for $12MM, the Rangers $8.7MM.
- Anthony Andro of The Star Telgram reports that Darren O'Day filed for $1.4MM and the Rangers for $1.05MM (Twitter links).
- Frank Francisco filed for $4.875MM, the Rangers $3.5MM according to Andro.
- Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press tweets that Jose Bautista filed for $10.5MM, the Blue Jays $7.6MM. Michael Vlessides nailed both figures when he spoke to MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith back in October.
- MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm tweets that Jason Frasor filed for $3.725MM, the Blue Jays $3.25MM.
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.
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...
- The Astros signed Dominican righty Luis Abad for a low six figures bonus, tweets SI's Melissa Segura. Back in May, Blake Bentley ranked the new Dominican prospects for MLBTR, placing Abad in a tenth-place tie and calling him "one of the most projectable pitchers you'll see."
- I took a look at Neil Walker's fantasy baseball prospects for 2011 over at RotoAuthority.
- The Mariners are interested in Japanese middle infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, says U.S.S. Mariner's Dave Cameron. Nakajima may be posted by the Seibu Lions and could be a bargain this winter. Patrick Newman of FanGraphs has more on Nakajima.
- Royals first baseman Billy Butler changed agents, going from Doug Rogalski to Greg Genske of Legacy Sports, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Rogalski has to feel burned, as Butler is heading to arbitration for the first time this winter.
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts interviewed Eric Wedge for the team's managerial opening yesterday, reports ESPN's Bruce Levine. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports that the Mariners interviewed Bobby Valentine yesterday and have Lloyd McClendon on the docket this week.
- Billy Wagner talked to MLB.com's Mark Bowman about his retirement.
On this day in 1977, Sadaharu Oh hit his 756th career home run, passing Hank Aaron for the (known) all-time professional record. It's just the 'known' record since we don't know for sure how many homers Josh Gibson hit in the Negro Leagues. Oh finished his Japanese career with a whopping 868 long balls.
Some news items...
- Andrew Stoeten of the Drunk Jays Fans blog and The Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott both recently outlined the Blue Jays' upcoming decision about Aaron Hill's 2012-14 club option years. If the Jays decline to exercise all three options at once by next Opening Day, Hill can no longer be retained by the team on his $10MM club option for 2014. It's very likely that Toronto will pass on the three-years-at-once option and then look at Hill's $8MM options for 2012 and 2013 after next season. In short, Hill's lackluster play this year has cost him $10MM thus far.
- Chris Sampson has accepted his minor league assignment from the Astros and will report to Triple-A Round Rock, tweets Alyson Footer of MLB.com. Sampson could've opted for free agency, but will instead finish the season in Houston's system and pursue free agency in the offseason.
- If Eric Hosmer continues to develop, ESPN.com's Jason A. Churchill suggests that Kansas City might trade Billy Butler to avoid paying him a significant contract. Butler is a first-time arbitration candidate this offseason and could make 10 times his current $470K salary in 2011.
- Cleveland manager Manny Acta says that Jensen Lewis' future with the Tribe may depend on how he looks in relief outings this September, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Lewis will reach arbitration for the first time this winter and is out of options, so he's a possible non-tender candidate.
- In a reader chat, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News gave his opinion on such Rangers hot stove topics as Cliff Lee's future with the club and whom the Rangers might target in free agency this winter.
- Brandon Boggs has cleared waivers and been assigned to Texas' Triple-A affiliate, reports MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. Boggs was designated for assignment on Tuesday.
- Eric Chavez "is not ready to announce [his] retirement," tweets MLB.com's Jane Lee, but would consider a post-playing career of coaching or broadcasting (also from Twitter).
- Blogger El Lefty Malo looks at how the Giants have gotten better at acquiring "band-aid" veterans.
- Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall tells FOXSportsArizona.com's Jack Magruder that money will not be a factor in hiring the team's new general manager, but admits "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an issue."
- Alex Rodriguez's recent split with agent Scott Boras may have been influenced by advisers from the entertainment business and Rodriguez's "infatuation with Hollywood stardom," reports ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews. Somewhere, Ari Gold is yelling at Lloyd to place a call on his behalf...
Now that six years have passed since the 2004 draft, let's take a look at a few of the choices teams made between prospects at the same position to get a sense of who came out ahead in the great pick-by-pick spin of fate.
- Justin Verlander (Tigers) vs. Phil Humber (Mets) vs. Jeff Niemann (Rays): Here we have a textbook study in the perils of pitching prospects. In Verlander, the second overall pick, the Tigers got a true ace. He has posted three top-seven finishes in the Cy Young voting already, and struck out an incredible 269 batters in 240 innings last year. Picking third, the Mets got an ace as well, sort of: Humber was eventually traded in the deal that landed them Johan Santana. Needless to say, Humber has not been an ace himself, pitching to an ERA over 5.00 at Triple-A for a second straight year in 2010. Niemann, meanwhile, has profiled somewhere in-between, though his 2010 so far suggests he may be fulfilling the promise of his status as fourth overall pick. He's pitching to a 2.83 ERA in 2010, though the strikeout rate (just 5.8 per nine innings) suggests that ERA will likely rise. Overall winner here? Everyone except the Twins.
- Billy Butler (Royals) vs. Josh Fields (White Sox): Well, it certainly appears the Royals got the better of this battle of third basemen. Butler, picked 14th, didn't stick at third, but he is finally getting some attention as a legitimately excellent bat, putting up a .341/.396/.494 line in 2010 so far. Meanwhile, Fields, picked 18th, has struggled to remain on the field, and is actually now property of the Royals as well, coming over this winter in the deal for Mark Teahen. But he will miss most, if not all, of the 2010 season after having hip surgery in April. Fields, 28 in December, has had some impressive Triple-A seasons, so he may eventually fulfill his promise. Butler, however, is clearly here to stay. Overall winner? The Royals. Almost makes up for Alex Gordon!
- Glen Perkins (Twins) vs. Phil Hughes (Yankees): Lost in the many months of Johan Santana trade talks back in 2007-2008, which centered around whether the Yankees would deal Phil Hughes, was the realization that the Twins could have drafted Hughes themselves. Instead, at pick 22, Minnesota took Glen Perkins, a college product out of University of Minnesota. The outlook isn't brilliant for Perkins at this point, with a 7.76 ERA in Triple-A, though his strikeout rate is at least relatively strong. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes has become one of the best pitchers in the American League, with a fantastic 74 strikeouts and 22 walks in 75.1 innings in support of his 3.11 ERA. Hughes won't be 24 until later this month. And among those who won't be celebrating his birthday? The Twins.
A batch of links to kick off the work week...
- Newly minted Royals Player of the Year Billy Butler has not held long-term extension talks with the team, MLBTR learned on a conference call today. Butler will not be arbitration-eligible until after the 2010 season.
- Desipio on the Cubs-Curtis Granderson idea: "In the end, this smells like a winter of Brian Roberts and Jake Peavy trade rumors. One that ends with us talking ourselves into how Marlon Byrd isn’t so bad after all."
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports believes it's a three-horse race for Matt Holliday: the Red Sox, Yankees, and Angels.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes about Jed Hoyer and the Adrian Gonzalez situation.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that a dozen teams have expressed interest in free agent infielder Craig Counsell. He'd like a multiyear deal.
- MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan sums up the Rangers' hot stove storylines.
- Evan Grant wonders what it would take for the Rangers to acquire Edwin Jackson.
- ESPN's Keith Law believes it'd be unwise for a team to acquire Dan Uggla and move him off second base.
- Sean Smith's 2010 CHONE projections for hitters are now available, so take a peek into his crystal ball.
- Jeremy Greenhouse of The Hardball Times cautions against misuses of the WAR statistic.
- Jeff Blair of The Globe and Mail thinks the Blue Jays "will be all over" Brandon Phillips to play third base if the Reds make him available.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post suggests Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd will hold Type A free agent reliever Rafael Betancourt hostage with an arbitration offer. In my opinion, Betancourt has a decent chance of accepting.
- Tommy Rancel of DRays Bay talked to Rays VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman.