The Athletics have released first/baseman designated hitter Billy Butler, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Slusser reported Friday that Butler would not return to the A’s in 2017, so their decision to cut ties with him now isn’t a complete surprise.
In a move that looked questionable at best from the get-go, low-payroll Oakland signed Butler to a three-year, $30MM contract in free agency after the 2014 season. The longtime Royal was coming off his worst season since 2008, having hit .271/.323/.379 with nine home runs in 603 plate appearances, and he wasn’t any better during his nearly two-year stint with the A’s. Butler, 30, combined to bat an underwhelming .258/.325/.394 with 19 homers in 843 trips to the plate with Oakland. Thanks to the package of below-average offense, defense and base running he provided to the A’s, Butler accounted for minus-1.2 fWAR with the club, tying him for the majors’ 18th-worst mark among position players since last season.
In addition to his on-field difficulties with the A’s, Butler was involved in a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia last month. The two engaged in a verbal dispute after Butler made comments that may have interfered with an endorsement deal for Valencia. It escalated to the point of physical contact before Valencia struck Butler with one or more punches. Butler reported being fine afterward, but he then began exhibiting nausea and vomiting. While the A’s fined the pair undisclosed amounts, general manager David Forst said Sunday that the confrontation didn’t factor into Butler’s release (Twitter link via Slusser).
All told, Butler’s tenure in Oakland was an unmitigated disaster for a player who enjoyed a five-year stretch of solidly above-average offense with Kansas City from 2009-13. During that period, the 2004 first-round pick slashed a terrific .302/.372/.469 with 99 homers in 3,370 PAs. That half-decade showing ultimately led to his deal with the A’s, who will now eat the $10MM-plus remaining on his contract.