There was no loyalty for this longtime Royal. After eight seasons with the Kansas City Royals, Billy Butler has signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Athletics worth $30 million.
The Royals declined Butler's $12.5 million team option for 2015, paying him a $1 million buyout and allowing him to become a free agent for the first time in his Major League career. He will receive a $5 million signing bonus payable by Dec. 31, a $5 million salary in 2015 and $10 million in each of the final two seasons of his new contract.
In yet another interesting move by Billy Beane, the A's have seem to have found an everyday designated hitter for the first time in three years. Beane is trying to play it safe by again signing a guy without great numbers, hoping he'll be the bat in the lineup that can replace Yoenis Cespedes.
Grade for Butler: A
This may be the best possible situation for Butler. He gets a fresh start in Oakland after a disappointing 2014 season. From 2009 to 2013, he hit below .300 only twice (.291 in 2011 and .289 in 2013) and had 15 or more home runs.
In 2014 he hit .271 over 151 games and saw his home runs dip to nine and his RBIs drop to 66. He also had career lows in slugging (.379), OBP (.323) and OPS (.702). You can make the conclusion that Butler scored nicely this offseason, especially since he was looking to stay in Kansas City.
"We gave them a chance," Butler said of the Royals to ESPN. "It didn't work out. It's unfortunate. I enjoyed every day ... It dampens it a little bit for me that we got to the top of where we're at and now I'm gone. I'm glad I got to see it through this year… It hurts a little bit that I'm not going to get to see the rest of that go through. I'm on to a different chapter, that's the way you have to look at it."
Grade for the Athletics: C
Billy Butler is not Yoenis Cespedes, just like Cespedes is not Butler. Butler is a contact hitter and Cespedes a good power hitter. You can't replace one with the other, but both are counted on to drive in runs for their teams. Beane needed pitching more than Cespedes's power in 2014 and that didn't work out. Now he is trying to get a little of that back at around the same price. Cespedes will earn $10.5 million next year, but could make a lot more as a free agent after next season.
The Athletics have been contenders for a few years now and with Butler they are looking to take a step forward with small splash buys.
Beane likes to sign veterans to short-term deals as he did with Bartolo Colon (two-years, $5 million) and Frank Thomas (one-year, $ 3.1 million). Colon went on to be a Cy Young contender and Thomas won Comeback Player of the Year. He also picked up current players Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson for almost nothing. Moss made $1.6 million in 2013 and $4.1 million in 2014 and his power numbers have surged with 20 plus home runs and 80-plus RBIs. Donaldson also saw his numbers surge in the last two years while only making $500,000 in 2014. He also hit 20-plus home runs with 90-plus RBIs in both years.
"Finding right-handed power in the middle of the lineup at this stage is really difficult. It's not very often you get free agents that are in the prime of their career and still have some upside to them." Beane said to ESPN.
Beane has always been a wiz at finding talent, but he is stretching it a bit with Butler. He is coming off the worst season of his career. Beane feels Butler is at his "prime" at 28 and maybe he is right, but on a good Royals team Butler declined. The hitter has only had one 100 RBI season and I don't know if that means Butler deserves to be paid $30 million over three years. Like the Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel trade, Beane seems to be gambling bigger and bigger.
Butler could turn out to be like Moss or Donaldson or he could turn out to be like Chris Young ($7.25 million for one year) or Curtis Granderson ($40 million four years).
In the end, Beane knew he would have to replace Cespedes. Out of all the free agent designated hitters in this year's class, Butler is one of the youngest. He could thrive in that A's lineup, but that money could have gone to Torii Hunter or Nick Markakis.