|Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler (photo via Keith Allison)|
Royals ready to talk about Billy Butler deal for teams that would take on DH owed $8 million in '14, $12m in 2015.Billy Butler isn't a star, but for teams that need a designated hitter and are willing to spend some coin, he could present a nice upgrade. As Joe Reisel pointed out last week in our Making the Orioles a Champion in 2014 series, O's DHs had a combined slash line of .236/.290/.418 in 2013. Butler, 27, hit .289/.374/.412, which was his worst offensive output since 2008, when he hit .275/.324/.400 in his second major league season. Butler took a huge step back in the power department, as he went from hitting 29 homers in 2012 to just 15 in 2013.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 22, 2013
|162 Game Avg.||162||672||39||1||19||62||96||.298||.364||.459|
But his 2012 power numbers seem like the real outlier. Butler's career HR/FB rate is 11.4%. In 2013, his rate was 11.7%; in 2012, it was about 20%. In that surprising display of power, many of Butler's doubles (32) became home runs. In the three previous seasons, he hit 51, 45, and 44 doubles, respectively. What's worrisome is that he took a step back in both the doubles and home run department, though he did manage to post the best walk rate of his career (11.8%; career of 9.2%).
In all likelihood, Butler's batting skills are in the .350-.360 wOBA range -- a bit above 2013 (.345) but below 2012 (.377). (Butler has a career .357 wOBA.) And Butler would be a nice complement to an Orioles lineup that was third in the majors in slugging percentage (.431) but tied for just 17th in on-base percentage (.313). His .374 OBP last year would have led the team.
But Butler is strictly a DH, so he has to hit well to provide value. He provides nothing defensively; he's also a below average baserunner who hits into a ton of double plays. And, as Olney noted above, Butler makes $8 million in 2014 and has a $12.5 million club option in 2014 (with a $1 million buyout). That's a lot of money to spend on a DH, especially since the kind of production teams want -- the kind he had in 2012 -- is unlikely to happen again.
Here are three other notes on a potential Butler trade:
1. It's unclear how much the Orioles plan to spend this offseason. MLB Trade Rumors projects the Orioles to spend over $40 million alone on just eight arbitration-eligible players (Jim Johnson, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Bud Norris, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Troy Patton, and Steve Pearce). And that doesn't include Nolan Reimold and Chris Dickerson, who may not be tendered contracts. So, depending on how much the O's spend bringing their own guys back, plus whatever potential upgrades the O's make to the rotation, bullpen, second base, or outfield, there may not be a bunch of extra money to give to a DH.
2. The O's have expressed interest in Butler in the past (as early as last December), so it's not unreasonable to think they'd at least consider acquiring Butler and plugging him into the team's DH slot. Still, it's laughable that the name Dylan Bundy was even mentioned as any kind of possible trade chip for Butler, and trading Chris Tillman for Butler probably would have been a mistake. Who knows exactly what type of package (or single player) it would take for the O's to acquire Butler now, but considering his position and salary, it probably isn't too much.
3. Butler is solid against right-handed pitching (.344 wOBA), but he thrives against lefties (.391 wOBA). Danny Valencia, for instance, isn't nearly as good against righties (.276 wOBA), but, like Butler, he's excellent against lefties (.380 wOBA). Butler has played much more than Valencia so his sample size is much greater, but Valencia has shown that he can rake against left-handed pitching. Considering Valencia is only entering his first year of arbitration and will be much cheaper than Butler, maybe it makes more sense to simply use Valencia at DH against lefties and either bring in a left-handed DH option or rotate some of the regulars like Davis, Wieters, Markakis, and McLouth (if re-signed) against right-handed pitching. The platoon role is not always ideal, and it could be worth it just to have a single player slotted in as the DH every day. It's not like we're talking about a Vladimir Guerrero type situation again.
I'm not sure I can defend paying $8 million for a not-elite DH, especially when the O's have other issues to address. And if the O's paying $8 million for Butler's services seems unrealistic (it does), then there is basically no chance of his 2015 option being picked up. If the O's could acquire Butler for basically nothing, that's one thing, but paying him a hefty amount plus giving up anything of value? I'm not on board with that -- even if Butler's OBP would be a nice addition.