Right-handers Eddie Butler and Drew Rucinski have signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization. The Dinos announced Rucinski’s signing Friday, while Butler’s signing was made official this morning (both links via Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency). They’ll each receive the maximum $1MM guarantee that first-year foreign players are permitted under the KBO’s new rule structure for inking international free agents.
Butler, 28 in March, was selected by the Rockies with the No. 46 overall pick in the 2012 draft and at one point was considered to be among the game’s premier overall prospects. The righty drew Top 50 billing from each of Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN and Baseball Prospectus leading into the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Butler, though, never missed as many bats as one would expect from someone whose power sinker and slider drew as much praise as they did while rising through the minor league ranks. His numbers took a turn for the worse upon graduating from Double-A to Triple-A, and he simply has never found his footing in the big leagues.
The lack of MLB success isn’t for lack of opportunity; Butler has racked up 263 2/3 innings across parts of five Major League seasons but struggled to a 5.80 ERA with just 5.2 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9. He’s kept the ball on the ground at an above-average 48.6 percent clip but also been far too homer-prone, yielding 1.47 long balls per nine innings pitched. Butler has spent time with the Rockies, Cubs and Rangers prior to this new agreement to pitch in Korea.
As for Rucinski, the 29-year-old has had quite a different career path than his new teammate. The Ohio State product went undrafted before signing with the Indians organization in 2011, though he ultimately wound up pitching through multiple stints in independent ball before latching on with the Angels and making his MLB debut in 2014. Along the way he worked various odd jobs, including some time on a pecan farm and selling sporting goods at a retail store.
The right-hander only got a brief glimpse of action with the Angels and had an even smaller cup of coffee with the 2017 Twins, though he logged a career-high 35 1/3 innings with the Marlins this past season. Rucinski has a 5.33 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 54 Major League innings, but he’s posted a combined 2.54 ERA in his past two Triple-A seasons between the Minnesota and Miami organizations.