Billy Butler and the A’s seem right together. He’s been an on-base machine (his 2014 season is an outlier for now), and he’s in his prime years (28). He’s likely to draw a reasonable salary (one report says three years, $30 million).
As important, Oakland can keep Butler away from a division rival (the Mariners).
There was talk Tuesday night the A’s were close to signing the free-agent DH/first baseman.
Source: #Athletics showing strong interest on a deal with DH Billy Butler. Source considered them “close” to a deal.
— Devan F. (@CoverThoseBases) November 17, 2014
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 19, 2014
One reason Butler is relatively inexpensive: He’s coming off one his worst big league season. He posted career lows in on-base percentage (.323) and OPS (.702) in 2014 for the AL champion Royals. His nine home runs and 95 OPS+ were his second-worst totals in those categories, and his 41 walks were his fewest for a full season.
The A’s, though, could use a right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup after trading Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester last July. Butler presumably would be Oakland’s primary DH (although lefty-hitting John Jaso can fill that role, too) and spell first baseman Brandon Moss against left-handers. Oakland’s current righty DH/first base options are Kyle Blanks and Nate Freiman, who have not established themselves as big leaguers.
A lot of people will disagree with the words “reasonable” and “relatively inexpensive” as it relates to a $10 million average annual value for Butler, but he made $8.5 million last season in the final year of a four-year, $30 million contract, and from 2009 to 2013 he was between 2.2 and 3.2 in WAR (per Baseball-reference.com) each year. At about $6 million per win above replacement, a season in the 2-3 range next year would seem to make the money reasonable.
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