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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Billy Butler would be willing to renegotiate deal to stay in KC next season

When Billy Butler thinks about next season and ponders the possibility of not being in a Royals uniform, he quickly tries to think of something else.

“It would definitely be painful,” Butler tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com.

Butler is in the final season of a four-year, $30 million deal he signed in 2011. There is an extended year to the deal, but it is a club option valued at $12.5 million with a $1 million buyout.

The Royals, naturally, won’t comment on their plans with Butler now. But it seems highly unlikely they would exercise the option at that price.

And that means this could be Butler’s last season with the Royals, the only team he has known since they drafted him out of high school 10 years ago. He is fully aware of this, of course.

“Absolutely,” he says. “This game is a business. I know what my job is for now and through the rest of the season. After that, who knows? That is what happens when you have an expiring contract.

“Any player with any team who has to go through that uncertainty knows what I’m talking about. But you just focus on each night and try to play the game right and then ...”

Butler’s voice trails off as if not to think of the future. Make no mistake, he wants to stay with the Royals….

And Butler has always dreamed of playing his entire career in Kansas City, just like George Brett did. And, in fact, Butler has borrowed Brett’s oft-used line that “everything I have in life I have because of the Royals.”

That is why Butler said he would be willing to take less money in a renegotiated deal just to stay with the Royals.

“I would definitely be more than happy to make that an option,” he says. “I’d do it because I love playing here. It’s all I have ever known. There’s been a lot of tough years, but there have been a lot of good memories, too.

“I don’t want to let that go. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 13, 2014 at 10:13 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: billy butler, contract, royals

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: August 14, 2014 at 01:20 AM (#4770765)
What's to "renegotiate?" If he's willing to play next year for $8 M and that suits the Royals, then the Royals don't exercise the option, then re-sign him for 1/$8.

   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 08:43 AM (#4770821)
The rumors I have heard are the Royals have never been enamored with Butler and have tried hard to deal him for a few years now. They'd prefer not to have a committed DH. So look for them to replace Butler with 2-3 much inferior hitters.
   3. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 09:04 AM (#4770830)
It's not easy to be a very much inferior hitter to Billy Butler anymore (94 OPS+, second straight year of steep decline). The Royals won't bring him back, by all accounts his defense at first is so bad no NL team will even consider him, and probably how well he hits these last two months is going to decide whether he gets a 1 year/$5 million contract or an NRI next spring.
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 14, 2014 at 09:07 AM (#4770831)
Back in the early Moneyball days, it seemed like by now every AL team would have found a DH who OBPs and SLGs really well but can't field. There are lots of those guys in the minors! Or bring in an aging slugger and put him at DH! Let him take a load off! But it turns out that somehow, that's almost impossible.

We still have the Indians, who put Nick Swisher at DH when his fielding declined, and his hitting totally collapsed. The Mariners, who put Corey Hart at DH when his fielding declined, and his hitting totally collapsed. The Yankees have put Carlos Beltran at DH, and he's not bad for age 37, but it's his worst season since 2005.

We all know how Adam Dunn has performed (sorta good, sometimes).

The Rangers, Rays, Angels and A's are still dividing the position up between 8 people, putting at DH whoever they want to give a rest.

The Astros may have found the rare slugger who thrives when not fielding (Chris Carter). The Twins have brought up a young Butler-esque player who can't field in Kennys Vargas to play DH. We'll see how they do.
   5. Win Big Stein's Money Posted: August 14, 2014 at 09:15 AM (#4770834)
Butler was recently spotted having lunch with newly hired super agent, Sung Woo Lee. Expect Sung Woo to work his magic and have Butler signed to a 6 year $100 million contract before he leaves town.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4770876)
So look for them to replace Butler with 2-3 much inferior hitters.


....and the Rays sign Butler on a buy-low deal and he hits .300/.380/.450
   7. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4770916)
Back in the early Moneyball days, it seemed like by now every AL team would have found a DH who OBPs and SLGs really well but can't field. There are lots of those guys in the minors! Or bring in an aging slugger and put him at DH! Let him take a load off! But it turns out that somehow, that's almost impossible.

We still have the Indians, who put Nick Swisher at DH when his fielding declined, and his hitting totally collapsed. The Mariners, who put Corey Hart at DH when his fielding declined, and his hitting totally collapsed. The Yankees have put Carlos Beltran at DH, and he's not bad for age 37, but it's his worst season since 2005.


Yeah, it's almost as if most of the time the kind of athletic skills required to hit at a high level also lend themselves to being able to at minimum field first base competently.

Actually is there *anyone* besides Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz that has had a long, successful career as a full-time DH? Harold Baines and Paul Molitor, but they were different cases in that they got parked at DH because they couldn't stay healthy, not because they couldn't field.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4770926)
That Frank Thomas guy was pretty good. Hal McRae, Brian Downing, Don Baylor.

But not a ton. Billy Butler is 8th all-time in games played for players who spent 50% or more of their time at DH:

Harold Baines 2830
Frank Thomas 2322
Don Baylor 2292
Hal McRae 2084
David Ortiz 2082
Edgar Martinez 2055
Cliff Johnson 1369
Travis Hafner 1183
Billy Butler 1133
Brad Fullmer 807

   9. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4770932)
Thanks, AG#1F. That list demonstrates what I'm trying to say in this way: that there are two types of career DHs. The one, represented on that list by Ortiz, Martinez, Hafner, Butler, and (I think) Cliff Johnson, are the guys who were always DHs because they couldn't field a lick. The other half of that list either were forced into DH by injuries (Baines, McRae) or shifted there in their late 20s because they were big men who got bigger as they aged (Thomas, Baylor).
   10. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: August 14, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4770933)
Well, sure. When you play for a first-place team you're going to be pretty anxious to stick around.
   11. AROM Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4770954)
....and the Rays sign Butler on a buy-low deal and he hits .300/.380/.450


Can't see the Rays going after a DH instead of just rotating their outfielders in and out of the spot. Not after the Pat Burrell experiment.
   12. akrasian Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4770957)
Zeth, my impression with Edgar Martinez was that while he wasn't a great fielder when he came up, he was acceptable - but a bit fragile, so they moved him to DH from 3b. So more in the class of Baines and McRae than Ortiz.
   13. AROM Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4770959)
Downing played mostly catcher or outfield up to age 36. He only DH'd regularly at the end of his career. Certainly a damn good one.
   14. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:30 AM (#4770973)
Ortiz, Martinez, Hafner, Butler, and (I think) Cliff Johnson, are the guys who were always DHs because they couldn't field a lick.

Martinez was moved off of third after a severe hamstring injury. Hafner had an arthritic shoulder that kept him from throwing.
   15. AROM Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:35 AM (#4770982)
So more in the class of Baines and McRae than Ortiz.


Or Molitor.
   16. WSPanic Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4770988)
It's not easy to be a very much inferior hitter to Billy Butler anymore (94 OPS+, second straight year of steep decline). The Royals won't bring him back, by all accounts his defense at first is so bad no NL team will even consider him, and probably how well he hits these last two months is going to decide whether he gets a 1 year/$5 million contract or an NRI next spring.


I think Butler's time at full time DH has added to the idea of him being a horrible 1B. Also - watching someone with the physical attributes of Hosmer vs. the tub-of-goo Butler represents offers a stark comparison.

With that said - Billy has been at first since Hosmer went out with an injured hand, and it doesn't appear (to my untrained eye) that Billy is a huge a liability at first. I know it has only been a few games, but the Royals' overall results certainly haven't suffered during that short time. Maybe a full season would expose him there, but he doesn't look terrible now.
   17. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:49 AM (#4771002)
Watching the A's the past few years, I've become convinced that replacement level for the DH position ought to be pretty damn high. It's a huge opportunity cost to have a guy who can't do anything else when you can be resting starters and giving bench players at-bats. If you don't have an Ortiz-level hitter, a full-time DH means you're playing half a man down.
   18. The District Attorney Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:58 AM (#4771011)
It's a huge opportunity cost to have a guy who can't do anything else when you can be resting starters and giving bench players at-bats.
How can it work both ways, though? We're told this, and then we're also told that the reason DH isn't the biggest-hitting position is because it's where guys play when they're injured. If playing injured guys leads to suboptimal results, then why do teams "need" to do it?
   19. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: August 14, 2014 at 12:02 PM (#4771012)
I'm not sure how exactly you would measure it, but I think there has to be some effect of lost rest days for regulars and playing days for bench players. In other words, teams with a full-time DH would have the rest of the position players perform worse than we would otherwise expect because they do not receive optimal playing time.
   20. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 14, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4771024)

Yeah, it's almost as if most of the time the kind of athletic skills required to hit at a high level also lend themselves to being able to at minimum field first base competently.


Is this true, or is it that GMs take the stance taken by #17, that you don't want a full-time DH? There have certainly been awful defenders put out on the field.
   21. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 14, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4771084)
At least three of these rationales need to be combined to explain the 2008 Mariners putting Richie Sexson, Raul Ibanez and Wladimir Balentien in the field and Jose Vidro at DH.
   22. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 14, 2014 at 01:34 PM (#4771093)
Jack Cust had a good run for Oakland for a few years, but he was 28 before he got a full-time shot, and out of the league at 33. Make him a full-time DH at 24 (he had 225 HR in the minors), and he'd look pretty good on the career DH list...
   23. Ziggy Posted: August 14, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4771111)
One consideration is that if you've got a full-time DH you've got to pay him full-time money. If you're just rotating players through the DH position (like most teams do), that roster spot can be a utility infielder or relief pitcher making the minimum.
   24. Baldrick Posted: August 14, 2014 at 02:42 PM (#4771148)
Thanks, AG#1F. That list demonstrates what I'm trying to say in this way: that there are two types of career DHs. The one, represented on that list by Ortiz, Martinez, Hafner, Butler, and (I think) Cliff Johnson, are the guys who were always DHs because they couldn't field a lick. The other half of that list either were forced into DH by injuries (Baines, McRae) or shifted there in their late 20s because they were big men who got bigger as they aged (Thomas, Baylor).

It's already been pointed out that Edgar falls into the second category--injuries, not lack of fielding ability. But I want to reiterate the point mostly just to emphasize that his huge percentage of DH vs. 3B time is partly a function of just how late a start he got (thanks to the M's blocking him with Jim Presley), and how long he was able to stick around on the back side of his career. He only got 564 games at third base in the big leagues, but he was a regular third baseman all through his 20s; it's just that a lot of that time was spent in the minors. He didn't shift to being a DH until he was 32.
   25. BDC Posted: August 14, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4771167)
I think a couple of other factors are at work, though they may not be 100% rational: players resist being relegated to full-time DH'ing; and the desire to carry innumerable pitchers puts the remaining few bench spots at a premium.
   26. Dan Posted: August 14, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4771179)
Zeth, my impression with Edgar Martinez was that while he wasn't a great fielder when he came up, he was acceptable - but a bit fragile, so they moved him to DH from 3b. So more in the class of Baines and McRae than Ortiz.


Ortiz was also a perfectly acceptable fielder at first base. Nothing special, but better than plenty of guys who have played the position regularly in the NL (e.g. Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder). He was also moved to 1B mainly for health reasons. The Red Sox were concerned that he wouldn't be able to post 600 PA seasons while playing the field. In other words, all of your examples were moved to primary DH due to health reasons rather than being atrocious in the field.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: August 15, 2014 at 01:52 AM (#4771580)
Watching the A's the past few years, I've become convinced that replacement level for the DH position ought to be pretty damn high.

And it is. In strict WAR terms, the positional adjustment is about 5 runs worse than 1B so around -14/15 for a full season most of the time. So to get up to average, you've got to be +15 with the bat. Putting that in OPS+ terms, there's no direct translation from Rbat to OPS+ but based on 2013, around 15 Rbat is around a 120 OPS+. Figure a full-time DH is probably losing you a few runs on the bases and we might start pushing 125-130.

Alternatively I think an interesting way to look at it is empirically -- at what level are teams willing to let a guy be a full-time DH and, especially to do it at least two years in a row.

For example, let's define a "full-time DH season" as 502+ PA and at least 100 games at DH. That still leaves lots of part-time DHs in there but so be it. Let's start looking at the median OPS+ of such seasons across a few time periods. You can see from the very start that a full-time DH was pretty rare.

1973-82: 40 seasons, 117 OPS+ median
1983-92: 50 seasons, 118
1993-02: 46 seasons, 131
2003-12: 38 seasons, 126

Nice that those numbers aren't far off that earlier guesstimate of 120-125.

But that is all seasons, how many get to repeat? For example, looking at the 2003-12 group cuz they're the ones I have on my screen right now ...

Players who got only one season at DH:

Lind, 90 OPS+
Abreu, 105 at age 37
Everett, 94
D Young, 88
Sheffield, 119 at age 38 (he didn't make 502 PA the next year but it was a bad one at 90)
Damon, 109 at 37
Vidro, 109
Bradley, 162 (went to the Cubs)
Ibanez, 115 at age 33 ... went back to the OF
VMart, 131 in his first year as a DH, got hurt, then a 110 last year and a big year this year

Other than catching VMart's career at an odd time, I think Sheff is the only one in that bunch given a 2nd shot at DH'ing ... and he was under contract so ...

The guys who did it twice-ish ... i.e. not the big DH names:

Butler: 125 in his first year, 138 second
Durazo: just 113 in his first year, nice 138 his second then hurt and career over
Matsui: 123 for the Yanks, let him go to the Angels 126 who let him go to the A's 93 ... standard A's timing

Vlad's last two seasons -- he'd been mostly a DH in 09 but didn't get to 502 PA. 107 OPS. Angels let him go to Tex where he put up a 119 but they still let him go to Balt where he had his last season.

Edgar's last two seasons

So we've got the start of Butler's run, Durazo's aborted career (but given a 2nd chance after the 113) and aging stars wrapping things up.

The big names:

Ortiz -- there's a bad season here but mostly ones around 150
Thome -- a couple of 150s then a 124 then quite effectively platooned
Hafner -- a monster then hurt/platooned but still in the 120-130 range
Thomas -- lots of missed time but from 2003-7 had a 139 OPS+, including a 125 at 39. 97 at 40 and he was done.

So you look at it and generally the really full-time guys -- i.e. the year-after-year full-time guys -- are real studs. 140-150 OPS+ types. And Billy Butler who's generally been around 125.

Looking back at some others (OPS+ in generally consecutive years ... often ending with their last full-time season)

Thornton: 138/123/132/94
Parker (38-40): 110/118/81 (fading star)
Molitor (33-37): 147/140/143/138
Molitor (38-41): 101/116/104/86 (fading star)
McRae: 153/136/110/(117)/124/(111)/147/129 (years in parens he didn't qualify)
Luzinski: 145/130/129
Kingman: 133/104/90 (last 3 years of his career)
Horton: 106/.../107/.../109 (not a good choice)
Easler: 140/98/121
C Davis: 141/130/103/148/146/124/131/108
Carty: 143/118/138/92
Brett: 101/102/94 (fading star)
Baylor (33-37): 106/138/131/109/112
Baines: 116/112/144/143/108/142/132/120/105

So even fairly early guys like McRae, Thornton, Luzinski, Carty consistently put up numbers over 125. There are very few guys with more than two years at it who didn't have to produce gangbusters to keep the job and most of those were fading stars (Molitor and Brett certainly, Parker and Kingman weren't exactly stars, especially not to those fan bases -- call it hoping to find past glory). Baylor and Baines are probably the worst of the ones given the job for extended periods before they were totally ancient and even Baylor works out to about an average of 120 OPS+.

To me that's all very consistent with the notion that "replacement level" is very high for DH. I'm not sure that's even the right term to use -- it seems more the opportunity cost of shortening your useful bench by one player.

This is also reflected in pay -- most years Ortiz has made in the $12-15 range. Through the 90s, Edgar was making $3-3.5 per year and still only around $6 in early 2000s.
   28. The District Attorney Posted: August 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4771741)
I think there has to be some effect of lost rest days for regulars and playing days for bench players. In other words, teams with a full-time DH would have the rest of the position players perform worse than we would otherwise expect because they do not receive optimal playing time.
Fair enough, and I am a believer that, even though the "optimal" lineup may not change from game to game, there is merit in playing bench players just to keep them sharp and to give the starters a rest. I think this is underrated in baseball. In basketball, we have seen the Spurs excel by frequently resting regulars and creating a deep bench that is always ready to go. This certainly can't be as potent a weapon in baseball, since basketball is more physically demanding, and allows unlimited substitution. But I do think it can be the same principle, in a very general sense.

However, two things. First of all, naturally, resting a guy by literally not playing him is more of a complete "rest" than playing him at DH. Secondly, insofar as your bench consists of utility infielders and defensive replacement outfielders, I think you want to get those guys in the game at positions, not at DH.

You mention the A's, who platoon multiple players at multiple positions, including across positions. Given the Jenga puzzle of parts they've put together, I agree that a DH-only guy any worse than David Ortiz probably only gets in the way. That is a very unusual situation, though. Most teams have guys who play, and guys who don't play. I simultaneously think that many of those teams should be resting their regulars more, and that many of them could work a DH-only into their roster, and that it would improve their offense. Certainly more than playing guys with nagging injuries, unless your bench truly sucks (in which case maybe improve your bench!)
   29. BDC Posted: August 15, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4771780)
Most teams have guys who play, and guys who don't play

The Rangers this year have consisted almost entirely of guys who don't play :) and they have a revolving door at DH, which has worked fine for them, at least relative to the disasters at several other positions.

In fact, Ron Washington (who of course had coached for the A's) has tended to have a rotation at DH and prefer versatile players. His three full-time DHs have been Sammy Sosa, Milton Bradley, and Vladimir Guerrero, all well-suited for the role, and even then he put them in the outfield at times and circulated other guys through DH. But he tends to like guys who play several positions and show up in the starting lineup often enough. He likes 1B/OFs and catchers who can play first base or pitch, that sort of thing.
   30. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 15, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4771793)
Teams in the AL can be divided clearly into two groups this year.

Teams with a regular DH (ranked by # of starts at DH)

104 BOS Ortiz
93 KCR Butler
86 HOU Carter
85 DET Martinez
66 CWS Dunn
62 NYY Beltran
61 BAL Cruz
48 SEA Hart (and now it's Morales)

Teams without a regular DH:
(all these players have started at DH between 9 and 37 times)

CLE (Swisher / Raburn / Santana / Chisenhall / Giambi)
MIN (Morales / Pinto / Willingham / Colabello / Mauer)
OAK (Callaspo / Jaso / Cespedes / Donaldson)
TOR (Lind / Navarro / Encarnacion / Bautista / Francisco)
LAA (Pujols / Cron / Ibanez / Hamilton)
TEX (Choo / Moreland / Rios / Choice)
TBR (DeJesus / Joyce / Forsythe)
   31. villageidiom Posted: August 15, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4771824)
Ortiz was also a perfectly acceptable fielder at first base. Nothing special, but better than plenty of guys who have played the position regularly in the NL (e.g. Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder). He was also moved to 1B mainly for health reasons. The Red Sox were concerned that he wouldn't be able to post 600 PA seasons while playing the field. In other words, all of your examples were moved to primary DH due to health reasons rather than being atrocious in the field.
The majority of the case that Ortiz is horrendous at 1B comes from two things. First, he is large. Second, they put Manny Ramirez, a horrible defender, in LF instead of DH, from which people inferred that Ortiz must have been worse at 1B than Manny was in LF. The fact that they have been getting gold-glove defense at 1B from someone else for most of his career doesn't seem to be a factor.

EDIT: I will second Dan's assessment of "acceptable" defense from Ortiz at 1B.

ALSO EDIT: I will also say I don't think Ortiz would have been nearly as good a hitter if he were a regular 1B. Not because he would be more tired, or less healthy - although I suppose we should assume he's a greater injury risk playing in the field regularly. I say he wouldn't have been nearly as good a hitter because Ortiz spends a decent part of his down time during the game watching video of opposing pitchers and taking practice swings in the batting cage behind the dugout. In short, when he's not batting, he is preparing for batting. Take that away and I think he's likely a lesser hitter.

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