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Kansas City Royals Rumors
The 2014 Royals went from playoff hopeful to Wild Card winners to a Cinderella team that made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. While the Giants ultimately prevailed, the team’s success brought about a baseball renaissance in Kansas City, leading to passionate and raucous crowds at Kaufman Stadium throughout the entire postseason. Now, GM Dayton Moore and his staff must determine how best to position the team for a repeat of that success despite several escalating salaries and the departures of key free agents.
- Omar Infante, 2B: $25.25MM through 2017 (including buyout of 2018 option)
- Jason Vargas, LHP: $25MM through 2017
- Alex Gordon, LF: $12.5MM through 2015
- Jeremy Guthrie, RHP: $12.2MM through 2015 (including buyout of 2016 option)
- Wade Davis, RHP: $7MM through 2015
- Salvador Perez, C: $3.75MM through 2016
- Alcides Escobar, SS: $3.5MM through 2015 (including buyout of 2016 option)
Arbitration Eligible Players (Service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Jayson Nix, INF (5.055): $950K projected salary
- Greg Holland, RHP (4.028): $9.3MM
- Aaron Crow, RHP (4.000): $2MM
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (3.146): $5.2MM
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (3.111): $2.7MM
- Tim Collins, LHP (3.096): $1.5MM
- Jarrod Dyson, OF (3.088): $1.3MM
- Danny Duffy, LHP (3.083): $2.6MM
- Lorenzo Cain, OF (3.074): $2.3MM
- Louis Coleman, RHP (2.159): $700K
- Kelvin Herrera, RHP (2.157): $1.5MM
- Non-tender candidates: Nix, Coleman
- James Shields, Billy Butler, Nori Aoki, Josh Willingham (retiring), Jason Frasor, Luke Hochevar, Scott Downs, Raul Ibanez
Other payroll obligations
- $1MM owed to Bruce Chen for buyout of 2015 option
The Royals opened the 2014 season with a payroll just over $92MM, and they’re already at $52.75MM in 2015 simply by exercising their option on Wade Davis and buying out the option on Billy Butler. That figure doesn’t include arbitration raises for any of the many arb-eligible players, nor does it include pre-arbitration players to round out the roster. Going off Matt Swartz’s projections, arbitration alone figures to boost the Royals up to $81MM in guarantees — a figure that would jump into the mid-$80MMs when factoring in pre-arb salaries.
There isn’t much room between that projection and the Opening Day payroll of 2014, but of course, there will be extra funds to spend thanks to the team’s deep postseason run. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star wrote recently that the payroll could surpass $100MM for the first time, meaning GM Dayton Moore could have a fairly well-stocked war chest for the offseason. McCullough reported that room for one fairly significant addition does seem to exist.
Perhaps the biggest area of concern for the Royals will be in the starting rotation. Although the team is said to have a strong desire to retain James Shields, odds are that another team will outbid the Royals by a fairly significant margin. That would leave the club with a rotation consisting of Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie. The team does fancy Brandon Finnegan an eventual starter despite his key role in the postseason bullpen, but dropping him right into the fire from day one next season might be ambitious. He threw just 40 innings between the Royals (minors, regular season and postseason) plus another 105 2/3 innings at TCU last year.
The free agent market features a number of second-tier options at starting pitcher, and though the top names among that second tier — Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano, Kenta Maeda and old friend Ervin Santana — could command average annual values north of $12MM on multi-year commitments, that seems to be within the Royals’ means. Indeed, McCullough specifically listed Santana as a target for the Royals when writing about the payroll, and there’s said to be mutual interest between the two sides. Of course, if Moore doesn’t want to spend most of his available money in one place, he could look to more affordable arms like Jason Hammel or try to catch lightning in a bottle by signing Brett Anderson or Brandon Morrow in hopes of getting 150+ innings of strong production should either finally remain healthy.
An alternative solution is the trade market. Reports have already indicated that the Royals will at least listen on some names they’d likely be loath to move, including Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. However, in my eyes, the clearest area for the team to shed some payroll is by breaking up the core of the “big three” relievers that gained so much notoriety in this year’s postseason. Greg Holland could stage a legitimate argument for being the game’s best closer, but he’s also projected to earn a whopping $9.3MM next season — a mark that represents about 10 percent of Kansas City’s Opening Day payroll from 2014. Combining to pay Holland and Davis $16.3MM seems a luxury that is too much for Kansas City to afford. However, with two years of team control remaining, Holland will be an attractive asset even with his quickly escalating salary and could fetch some strong young talent in a trade. Davis could slot into the closer’s role, with Herrera becoming the primary setup man. Given Davis’ club options for 2016 ($8MM) and 2017 ($10M), the additional saves won’t drive up his price tag through arbitration as they would Holland’s. Moore has stated that he thinks the team can afford both, however, and the Royals are reportedly even looking to add to their bullpen, so that speculation may be far-fetched, but it does carry some logic, in my mind.
Around the infield, the Royals are set at nearly every position. Catcher Salvador Perez is one of the game’s best bargains, Hosmer will look to return to his 2013 offensive production, Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar will form the double-play tandem, and Mike Moustakas will hope to build off a sound postseason in which he flashed legitimate power. It’s worth debating whether or not the team could look to upgrade over Hosmer and Moustakas, each of whom has disappointed to some level (Moustakas in particular, at the plate at least), but both have been looked at as cornerstone pieces in the past and both possess significant upside that makes it difficult for Kansas City to go in another direction. At the very least, a right-handed platoon option that can handle either corner infield spot seems like it would be a wise acquisition.
In the outfield, Alex Gordon may be baseball’s best left fielder, and the team can either choose to lean on Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson in center/right or platoon the two and pursue an external right fielder. A reunion with Aoki, to whom they’ve already been connected, can’t be ruled out. The Royals are also reportedly interested in Torii Hunter, and had been listed as a serious suitor for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, though he is reportedly off the market. An additional (and completely speculative) target could be Justin Upton, who’s owed $14.5MM next year before hitting the open market. Moore knows the Atlanta brass well, and Upton would add some legitimate power (at the expense of defensive value). And, he could net the team a draft pick next winter if he signed elsewhere. However, Atlanta would ask for some high-upside names, likely pitchers, and if the Braves want a Major League ready starter, as they got for Jason Heyward, the very mention of the names “Duffy” or “Ventura” would likely end those talks before they began in earnest.
Another question for the Royals will be how to replace longtime DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year, $30MM contract with the A’s last week. Kansas City could look to Mike Morse as a DH or attempt to buy low on Corey Hart or Kendrys Morales if the preference is to avoid spending big on designated hitter (which would explain Butler’s departure). They could also elect to use DH as a spot to give Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakas and a potential free agent outfield addition some rest (particularly if K.C. ends up adding an older veteran like Hunter). In the conference call discussing Butler’s departure, Moore told reporters, including MLBTR’s own Zach Links, that he was open to either scenario — a dedicated DH or a rotation to keep multiple regulars fresh.
One final piece for Kansas City could be a bullpen arm. Free agent Jason Frasor pitched well in Kansas City after being acquired from Texas and will leave a void in bridging the gap from starter to closer. A reunion could make sense, as he figures to land a one-year deal at a modest cost and knows the team well. Otherwise, I’d peg Kansas City as a potential landing spot for Pat Neshek, Jason Grilli and other solid arms that won’t come with an exorbitant annual value.
In the end, the Royals should be able to boost payroll above $100MM this offseason, but the large arbitration raises due for their core players will prevent them from spending too freely. Moore and his staff could very well look to the trade market to alleviate some of that pressure. The cost-controlled core that is in place should provide the foundation for another run at an AL Central title, so long as the team is able to replace the value lost by Shields’ seemingly inevitable departure. Significant steps forward from Hosmer or Moustakas may take care of that on their own, but Kansas City would be wise to supplement the roster so that those steps forward would be a bonus rather than a necessity.
The Dodgers announced that they have traded recently designated infielder Ryan Jackson to the Royals in exchange for cash consideration.
The 26-year-old Jackson has just two hits in 25 career plate appearances in the Majors. The Dodgers claimed Jackson off waivers from the Padres, and many speculated that former San Diego GM Josh Byrnes, now working in the Dodgers’ front office, had a hand in that decision. However, the Dodgers opted to designate Jackson for assignment when they acquired right-hander Juan Nicasio — a fellow DFA victim — from the Rockies.
A shortstop by trade, Jackson is a career .274/.344/.369 hitter at the Triple-A level. He missed most of the 2014 season recovering from surgery on his right wrist.
A pair of rival executives described Padres GM A.J. Preller as “all over the map” when asked by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Preller, Rosenthal writes, is furiously exploring both trade and free agent possibilities to boost his new club’s offense. According to Rosenthal, Preller was in contact with the Braves about Jason Heyward prior to their trade with the Cardinals, and he’s also called on Jay Bruce and Matt Kemp in addition to showing legitimate interest in Pablo Sandoval. One of Preller’s colleagues estimated to Rosenthal that the San Diego GM has had “baseline discussions” on at least 200 players this offseason. Suffice it to say, Padres fans should likely expect some form of significant move in Preller’s first offseason at the helm.
Elsewhere in the division…
- Trade talks regarding Miguel Montero have not escalated significantly since Russell Martin came off the board and signed with the Blue Jays, reports the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro (the Montero portion comes at the bottom of the article). However, the D’Backs have spoken to the White Sox, Cubs and Dodgers about Montero, who is owed $40MM over the next three seasons.
- MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart was recently in the Dominican Republic, and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson is in Mexico scouting some of the top international teens on the market. The D’Backs are hoping to make waves on the international front soon, he adds.
- The Rockies are still interested in re-signing Brett Anderson to a more team-friendly deal than the $12MM option they declined, tweets the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders. However, the Royals and Astros are interested in adding Anderson under similar circumstances, he adds.
- Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans said on KNBR radio yesterday that his team is very interested in both Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Moncada (via Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle). However, Evans wouldn’t commit one way or another when asked if his club had the money to sign both Tomas and Sandoval.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Brett Anderson | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Colorado Rockies | Houston Astros | Jason Heyward | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Kemp | Miguel Montero | Pablo Sandoval | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Yoan Moncada
Here’s the latest on Yasmany Tomas, the 23-year-old Cuban slugger who is among the exciting international players demanding attention:
- Tomas is growing tired of the “dog-and-pony show” and wants to sign as soon as he can but he is being urged by others to show patience, sources tell Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Phillies, Royals and Padres have shown the most interest in landing him, though the D’Backs and Mariners “lurk as possibilities,” and Atlanta is also in the mix. The Giants have seen Tomas four times, Passan adds.
- The Padres are still in on Tomas up to around the $70MM level, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs hears (Twitter link).
- The Braves are set for a private workout and should be considered part of the sweepstakes, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. As Heyman noted earlier today, Tomas has a visa and could be in attendance at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported recently that several dark horses could be in the race, and Atlanta would certainly qualify.
- The Phillies are increasingly concerned with the defensive part of the equation on Tomas, reports MLB.com’s Paul Hagen. The club is “backing off” somewhat, despite generally being viewed as the front-runner to land him. Philly sees Tomas more as a DH, per Hagen, but could be more intrigued if his asking price begins to creep down.
- Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com echoes those thoughts (Twitter links). He says the team believes in Tomas’s bat, but is worried about both his defense and conditioning and is not interested in guaranteeing him nine figures.
- For his part, Ben Badler of Baseball America sees the Giants and Phillies as the most likely landing spot for Tomas. A rival executive tells ESPN.com’s Jayston Stark (Twitter link) that he believes the Phils remain the easy favorite, with Stark noting that the bidding on Tomas has been making “furious progress.”
Here are the day’s minor signings from around the league:
- The Mariners have acquired minor league right-hander Sam Gaviglio from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielder Ty Kelly, the teams announced. Gaviglio, 24, had a 4.28 ERA with 8.3 K/0 and 3.0 BB/9 in 136 2/3 innings at Double-A this season. He made 25 appearances, with 24 being starts. Kelly, 26, hit .263/.381/.412 with 15 homers and 11 steals at Triple-A. The former Orioles draftee has a lifetime .280/.402/.409 batting line in 841 PA at that level.
- Left-hander Omar Duran has agreed to a minor league deal with the Tigers that includes a Spring Training invitation, MLBTR has learned. Duran, 24, had spent his entire career in the Athletics organization, never moving above the Double-A level. But he was consistently productive last year after matching his double-digit strikeout marks with manageable walk totals.
- The Royals announced that they have acquired outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Padres in exchange for left-hander Kyle Bartsch (Twitter link). Fuentes, 23, was one of the four players San Diego received from the Red Sox in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. The 23-year-old former first-rounder batted .294/.363/.416 with five homers and went 25-for-28 in stolen base attempts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. Bartsch, also 23, spent this season at Class-A Advanced Wilmington where he notched a 2.29 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 55 innings of relief, showing effectiveness against both lefties and righties.
- The Rangers have added catcher Chris Gimenez and righty David Martinez to minor league deals with invitations to camp, the club announced. Gimenez, 31, bounced around quite a bit last year and ultimately managed a .241/.313/.328 line over 128 plate appearances at the big league level — the sixth year in a row that he spent at least some time on an active roster. Martinez, 27, has just 18 1/3 big league frames to his credit and had spent his whole career with the Astros. He has worked in a swingman capacity in the upper minors in recent seasons.
Earlier today, the Royals bid farewell to slugger Billy Butler, who signed a three-year, $30MM deal with the A’s. It wasn’t surprising to see Butler head elsewhere after KC turned down his one-year, $12.5MM club option (our own Steve Adams actually predicted the exact terms of Butler’s new contract), but the loss still stings for the Royals. This afternoon, Royals GM Dayton Moore spoke with reporters about how the club will proceed without the the longest-tenured member of Kansas City’s roster. After watching the former All-Star sign a hefty three-year, $30MM deal, I asked Moore if he considered exercising the club option on Butler and trading him rather than letting him leave via free agency and getting nothing.
“That’s something talked about but the timing of it really didn’t allow us to do that,” Moore said. “There was nobody really willing to do that at the time. We just finished playing [in the World Series] and three days later we had to make a decision. If we would have found a viable trade partner it’s something we would have done, or looked at. I don’t know if we would have done it because I’m not sure what the package would have been, but it’s something we certainly looked at.”
Ultimately, Moore admits that he misread the market when it comes to Butler, but over the years he has learned that free agency is always difficult to predict and “hindsight is 20/20.” Even after declining the option, Moore felt that he had a good chance of retaining Butler, but things just weren’t meant to be. Now, the Royals will have to fill the void in their lineup and they’ll explore all opportunities. Moore hopes that he can take care of his right field need and some of the DH at bats with one signing, but he won’t pigeonhole himself.
“We like our flexibility, for certain.” Moore said. “It could be one guy or we could guys a day off like [Alex] Gordon or Lorenzo [Cain] or Omar [Infante].”
The Royals, Moore says, will search hard for a right-handed bat with some pop, but he also spoke at length about Kansas City’s needs in the starting rotation. That lines up with a report from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, noting that the club has checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester. Royals fans might be sad to see Butler go, but Moore insists that the club still has “plenty of room to sign a free agent or two.”
The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.
Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:
- In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
- Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
- Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
- Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.
Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.
- While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
- The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
- Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
- As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new notes column posted looking at a number of situations around the league. Here are some quick highlights…
- The Mariners are on the hunt for a right-handed bat, but they prefer Nelson Cruz to signing Hanley Ramirez or trading for Matt Kemp. Justin Upton is also somewhere on their wish list and is potentially available. Rosenthal writes that the Mariners “are going to do something” of significance to address that search.
- The Phillies are doing background work on the makeup of Red Sox prospects Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts and Matt Barnes, Rosenthal hears, fueling some speculation about a Cole Hamels trade. Rosenthal says the Sox are disinclined to move Vazquez or Blake Swihart, however, and previous reports have indicated that the team is loath to consider parting with Betts. As others have noted, Rosenthal feels that Hamels would likely require the Red Sox to exercise his 2019 option ($20MM) in advance, bringing the total he is owed to $110MM over the next five years.
- The Padres are continuing to listen to offers for Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, with Kennedy being the most likely of the three to go. Kennedy is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $10.3MM in 2015, and the Royals are interested in the right-hander. Rosenthal also speculatively lists the Rangers as a club to watch in the Kennedy market.
- A reunion between Nick Markakis and the Orioles seemed like a foregone conclusion at one point, but the two sides still aren’t close to a deal and talks are said to be merely “inching along.” Rosenthal wonders what’s taking so long but does note that the O’s are considering Yasmany Tomas and still working with Cruz as well, so it seems fair to speculate that having three options in the corner outfield is slowing the Markakis progress. As Rosenthal notes, the longer the wait, the more likely it is that Markakis explores other options more seriously.
- Since the publication of that column, Rosenthal has tweeted that the Orioles might be willing to move Bud Norris, who is projected by Swartz to earn $8.7MM in 2015. Norris is a free agent next season but pitched well in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 165 1/3 innings. Rosenthal also hears that the O’s have gotten “moderate” interest in Ubaldo Jimenez, although with $38.75MM remaining on his contract, I’d imagine he could only be swapped for another bad contract.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Cashner | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Bud Norris | Christian Vazquez | Cole Hamels | Hanley Ramirez | Ian Kennedy | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Matt Barnes | Matt Kemp | Mookie Betts | Nelson Cruz | Newsstand | Nick Markakis | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | Tyson Ross | Ubaldo Jimenez | Yasmany Tomas
Billy Butler, the longest-tenured member of the Royals’ roster, finally got to experience a postseason run with the team after years of false hope and a near-miss. However, the team bought out Butler’s $12.5MM club option, so “Country Breakfast” may be looking for a new home coming off a disappointing season.
Even in a down season, Butler hit .271 with a .323 on-base percentage. Both marks are better than the league average for hitters, and he’s typically posted significantly better marks. In the four years prior to 2014, Butler’s average sat between .289 and .318, while his OBP sat between .361 and .388. A lifetime .295/.359/.445 hitter, Butler has always been a good source of average and OBP.
Butler has a pair of 20-homer seasons under his belt, including a 29-homer campaign as recently as 2012. From 2008-13, he averaged 18 homers per season despite playing his home games at the very spacious Kaufman Stadium. It’s not unreasonable to think that moving to a smaller park that is more hitter-friendly would up his home run production.
At just 28 years of age (29 next April), Butler is among the youngest free agents on this year’s market. He’s also been highly durable, never having been placed on the disabled list and averaging 158 games per year over the past six seasons. His age and spotless injury history make it easier to write off his 2014 slump as a fluke than if he were on the wrong side of 30 with a troublesome injury history.
Butler rarely strikes out (14.5 percent for his career, 15.9 percent in 2014), and his 82.5 percent contact rate in 2014 was well above the league average. His deflated numbers seem mostly attributable to a dip in his batting average on balls in play and a sharp drop in his homer-to-flyball ratio. Players rarely see their power disappear at Butler’s age, giving further reason to hope for a rebound. His numbers were better from June 1 through season’s end — .282/.333/.417 — and he wasn’t the recipient of a qualifying offer.
While Butler’s career marks are solid, there’s no getting around the fact that he was a full-time designated hitter who didn’t hit well in 2014. Butler finished the season with below-average marks in context-neutral stats like OPS+ (95) and wRC+ (97). While even those marks would be an improvement over some teams’ DH production from 2014, it’s tough to market a below-average bat as a full-time DH. Agent Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency will need to emphasize Butler’s track record of solid production and paint 2014 as an aberration.
Most will see Butler as a strict DH at this point. He’s totaled just 623 1/3 innings at first base over the past four seasons combined, and he’s never graded out as a plus defender at the position. Unsurprisingly, he’s also been about five to six runs below average per season on the basepaths, according to Fangraphs.
While Butler has historically been a solid contributor in terms of average and on-base percentage, his 6.8 percent walk rate in 2014 was a career-worst. And, he’s never shown the plus power that one would ideally prefer to see from a full-time DH. He did post a .197 isolated power mark in his 29-homer season in 2012, and he registered a .191 mark in 2009 when he hit 21 homers and 51 doubles. Still, even excluding his down 2014 season, Butler has a .161 career ISO, which is more good than great.
Butler and his wife, Katie, have two children. Together, the couple started the Hit It A Ton hunger relief campaign in which Butler donated $250 for every homer he hit and $125 for every double he hit — money that he urges fans and businesses to match, with the proceeds going to the Bishop Sullivan Center and St. James Place in Kansas City.
Butler is well-liked by teammates with the Royals. Raul Ibanez described Butler as “fun-loving” to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times this October. Butler is popular among Kansas City fans and drew high praise from manager Ned Yost for his intelligence and professionalism, per MLB.com’s Phil Rogers.
Because he’ll most likely be viewed strictly as a designated hitter, Butler’s market should be confined to American League clubs with openings at DH (though one report did note that an NL club showed interest). That would seem to eliminate the Red Sox (David Ortiz) Tigers (Victor Martinez) and Yankees (Alex Rodriguez/Carlos Beltran). The Twins (Kennys Vargas) have a younger option at DH as well.
The White Sox, Mariners and Blue Jays were all linked to Martinez, so they stand as reasonable fits for Butler, who could be seen as an alternative. Seattle has been linked to Butler on the trade market in each of the past two offseasons. The Indians received some of the worst production in baseball at DH last year, so they seem like a fit if they’re able to move Nick Swisher or are comfortable playing him in right field (with David Murphy slotting into a reserve role or being traded). The Angels make sense if C.J. Cron‘s OBP woes are enough to instill doubt. Baltimore, too, could be a good fit if Nelson Cruz walks, and the A’s don’t have a set DH either.
Of course, Butler has been vocal about his desire to remain with the Royals, and a return to Kansas City certainly cannot be ruled out. He’d have to settle for a lower annual value than that of his $12.5MM club option, however. The two sides have reportedly already had at least one meeting, with the Royals said to prefer a two-year deal.
Lengthy multi-year deals for strict DHs tend to be reserved for elite bats coming off strong seasons, but Butler is younger than the typical free agent. Age is one of the primary factors on the open market, and it’s for that reason that I can envision him landing a few multi-year offers.
I can see Butler taking a one-year deal with a solid annual value if no multi-year deals that his camp deems acceptable materialize, but I can also see him receiving a three-year pact at a smaller AAV. Overall, Butler’s been a plus hitter in a large park with just one below-average offensive season under his belt dating back to 2009. A one-year deal worth $12-13MM or so might be on the table, but I can also see three-year offers from a team that feels he can return to his ways as a strong OBP source with respectable, albeit non-elite pop.
Rumors circulated last week that the Orioles had made a three-year, $30MM offer to Butler, although GM Dan Duquette steadfastly denied that report. That figure is one of many that I’d kicked around with Tim Dierkes of MLBTR prior to the GM Meetings. If he’s truly received an offer in that range and not accepted, then perhaps this prediction will be inaccurate. But a three-year, $30MM contract was my previous expectation, and I’m sticking to that pick.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.