Rumor Mill: Billy Butler to the Yankees


As much as baseball fans love the regular season with all the day-to-day offerings that it brings, one thing baseball fans love even more is the offseason, with all it brings. Seriously. If our monthly traffic numbers prove anything to us it is this: baseball fans love them some Hot Stove talk.

There wouldn’t be much of a baseball offseason without the free agent intrigue, the perceived overvaluing of prospects, and the flimsy trade proposals from big-market to small-market teams that involve an underachieving, oft-injured pitcher being traded for a 25-year-old hitter with a career .354 wOBA. (Of course, that number is skewed a bit after a 20-point decrease in 2011 because the organization messed with that hitter’s approach, having him focus on driving in “more runz!”)

Oh wait, did that one hit a little too close to home? Well, it should, because that’s the latest “Yankees need a hitter so let’s trade this guy with decreasing value for him” in the form of Phil Hughes for Billy Butler.

(Photo by Minda Haas/mindahaas.net)

Almost immediately after the Yankees completed the trade with the Mariners that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda, the rumor machine switched to how the Yankees would replace the right-handed bat at DH in their lineup. Butler, often the ire of Royals fans for whatever made-up reason they have this week, would seemingly fit well with New York because of his near elite on-base and contact skills, despite whatever lack of raw power he may have.

But does something like this trade makes sense for the Royals right now?

In short, sure, if it wasn’t Phil Hughes.

This being Mission 2012TM and all (or something like that) it would seem to be an opportune time to trade one of, if not the most, valuable trade chip (non-Hosmer division) the Royals have for the potential of a frontline starting pitcher. When looking at the 2012 ZiPS projections*, you can see that while the offense is being carried by just three players, the starting rotation is being carried by the relievers. Better put: the rotation projects to be pretty awful.

*Yes, these are just projections, and will most likely will not reflect the actual year-end statistics for each Royal in 2012. It is just assessment data. I get it that baseball is not played by computers. Thanks.

This isn’t entirely shocking news because there’s a reason the Royals have been mentioned in almost all rumors this offseason involving available starting pitchers. But as was the case of why the team shouldn’t have given up Wil Myers for Gio Gonzalez, or any of the starting pitchers that have been traded to this point, the Royals need to avoid overpaying for a position of need because of some perceived “window of opportunity”.

Over the last three seasons – his age 23, 24, and 25 season no less – Butler ranks third among designated hitters with a .370 on-base percentage, and fourth with a .364 wOBA. For all those fans that love them some RBIs, he’s also fourth in that category with 266. That’s 31 less RBIs than positional leader over that same time-span, David Ortiz, or an average of just 10 a year. Ten.

In the context of all American League hitters from 2009 through 2011, Butler ranks 11th, 21st, 20th, and 11th in OBP, wOBA, wRC+, and (gasp) RBIs, respectively. And, he did all of that mostly as the only real threat in the lineup, hitting behind guys with an extreme aversion to getting on base, and he’s not yet 26 years old.

I’ve written this before but it bears repeating: sometimes fans get caught up more in what a player can’t do instead of what a player can, or is, doing. (This is not the case with Chris Getz. Promise.)

Butler’s undervaluing has been pointed out a number of times at KoK, but until fans stop falling over themselves to trade Country Breakfast – as they were yesterday on Twitter when this rumor dropped – for a pitcher of the same age with a career 4.27 xFIP, we’re going to have to keep going over this.

Positional handcuffs aside, Butler is one of the best hitters in all of baseball. If the Royals do end up traded him, fine. But let’s hope when they do it is for a player of actual value first. And let’s all understand, for once, exactly what it is the Royals would be letting go.

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Tags: Billy Butler Billy Butler For Phil Hughes Country Breakfast KC Royals

  • jim fetterolf

    Good piece, other than the snark about Billy’s sacred wOBA dropping. Main reason it dropped was because he moved from 5th to 3rd and pitchers stopped pitching around him to get to Treanor or the struggling Moose. With Hoz on deck, pitchers got allergic to walking Billy, so his wOBA, based on trhe contextual and non-individual OBP stat, went down while his other numbers went up. I think the homers and ribbies are more valuable than Billy walking to first and standing there as Moose and Treanor and Getz make outs, but reasonable people can disagree. For those who think this would be good trade, bear in mind that not only would Billy be lost for the season, but so would Duffy or Paulino, forced out of the rotation.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf The rumor this is based off of is basically nonsense, but it sparked a ton of discussion on Twitter yesterday. There’s no credible source corroborating the initial speculation, but the theory itself is worth discussing.

  • jim fetterolf

    Good piece, other than the snark about Billy’s sacred wOBA dropping. Main reason it dropped was because he moved from 5th to 3rd and pitchers stopped pitching around him to get to Treanor or the struggling Moose. With Hoz on deck, pitchers got allergic to walking Billy, so his wOBA, based on trhe contextual and non-individual OBP stat, went down while his other numbers went up. I think the homers and ribbies are more valuable than Billy walking to first and standing there as Moose and Treanor and Getz make outs, but reasonable people can disagree. For those who think this would be good trade, bear in mind that not only would Billy be lost for the season, but so would Duffy or Paulino, forced out of the rotation.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf The rumor this is based off of is basically nonsense, but it sparked a ton of discussion on Twitter yesterday. There’s no credible source corroborating the initial speculation, but the theory itself is worth discussing.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel The theory is, of course, worth looking at and has been kicking around for the last year since Hoz, Moose, Cain, and Perez were recognized as imminent. Gets down to value and whether what we would receive would be worth as much to us as Billy is. We won’t get an ace for Billy, we won’t get a young #2 starter for him with years of control, so I think we probably can’t do better than some prospects. In that case, Billy should probably stay, being as predictable as death and taxes and being part of what is starting to project as an impressive offensive line-up. An argument could be made for Clint Robinson being an adequate replacement, and I’ve made that myself. I like what C Rob has done in the minors and like that he’s a lefty, something the line-up is a little light on, but that doesn’t mean Billy, long-time face of the franchise, should be given away cheap. If the NYY are in play, didn’t they get a top pitching prospect with Pineda? Billy for a AAA stud and maybe a A prospect might be fair and wouldn’t move Paulino or Duffy out of the rotation.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf I have significant doubts that Robinson could outperform Kila. Big big exploitable hole in his swing vs. lefties who know how to find it, i.e., MLB lefties. He’s also two years older than Butler with less talent and might even be a WORSE defender than Butler. If the right deal comes along, great, but the market for Butler is basically limited to AL teams since he won’t be a good option at first in the NL.

    And if they did trade Billy, they’d probably do so more for a high upside A guy and a “solid” AAA guy. Get the AAA guy to hold place and the A guy to hit a homer if they pan out. I just dont see them trading Billy anyway. No reason to at this point unless they get completely bowled over – as in Jeremy Hellickson and change bowled over (which is never happening).

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel The theory is, of course, worth looking at and has been kicking around for the last year since Hoz, Moose, Cain, and Perez were recognized as imminent. Gets down to value and whether what we would receive would be worth as much to us as Billy is. We won’t get an ace for Billy, we won’t get a young #2 starter for him with years of control, so I think we probably can’t do better than some prospects. In that case, Billy should probably stay, being as predictable as death and taxes and being part of what is starting to project as an impressive offensive line-up. An argument could be made for Clint Robinson being an adequate replacement, and I’ve made that myself. I like what C Rob has done in the minors and like that he’s a lefty, something the line-up is a little light on, but that doesn’t mean Billy, long-time face of the franchise, should be given away cheap. If the NYY are in play, didn’t they get a top pitching prospect with Pineda? Billy for a AAA stud and maybe a A prospect might be fair and wouldn’t move Paulino or Duffy out of the rotation.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel Agree, but would suggest that 1B is the NL version of DH when inhabited by Prince Fielder. Billy’s not a terrible 1st baseman, better than CRob from what I hear, he just isn’t near Hosmer quality, so is the DH. The key to any Billy deal is to get enough talent to compensate for what we give up, which is consistent production. I think Billy retires a Royal because nobody will give us what he is worth to us.

  • Kevin Scobee

    @michael.allen.engel@jim fetterolf In nearly 200 less at-bats in the minors Butler hit only 11 less homeruns, walked 70 more times, struck out less than 30 times, and had 25 more hits than Moustakas. Yeah, these are some crude statistics, and I am not at all a fan of Moustakas’ for a variety of reasons both on and off the field related, but I just don’t see where everyone assumes he’s this untouchable force and Butler is a mediocre hitter. If anything, they’re the same guy. Moustakas: more power, zero on-base skills, terrible defense. Butler: limited power, above-average on-base skills, terrible defense. In the end, I bet their careers or more similar than one being a superstar and the other being simply a chubby guy that hits singles. (This is in no way your point, Jim, you just poked me for another issue.)

    To your point: Swapping Butler for a pitcher and replacing him with Robinson would drastically hurt this team. Drastically. As someone has mentioned to me before on this site that Butler is a “one-dimensional” player, then everyone doesn’t fully understand how great that “one-dimension” is. Even though Butler’s trade value my be perceived as “low” because of position, you mean to tell me someone wouldn’t want a hitter with his career track record, playing in a cavernous home park, entering his age 26 season? And a player who has missed a total of 10 games the last three seasons?

  • Kevin Scobee

    @jim [email protected] I like how you said that “what he is worth to us”. Because it’s true. In the open market players of his skill are probably worth more money than what the Royals have him for, and his value does get hurt a little because the lack of counting stats both a product of his home park and his approach at the plate. For the Royals though, having someone with his track record of production, at his price, and his durability, means a lot. Also, if for no other reason, than in a market like Kansas City every dollar must be watch more closely. Having Butler’s consistency does mean something.

    Well said.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf I have significant doubts that Robinson could outperform Kila. Big big exploitable hole in his swing vs. lefties who know how to find it, i.e., MLB lefties. He’s also two years older than Butler with less talent and might even be a WORSE defender than Butler. If the right deal comes along, great, but the market for Butler is basically limited to AL teams since he won’t be a good option at first in the NL.

    And if they did trade Billy, they’d probably do so more for a high upside A guy and a “solid” AAA guy. Get the AAA guy to hold place and the A guy to hit a homer if they pan out. I just dont see them trading Billy anyway. No reason to at this point unless they get completely bowled over – as in Jeremy Hellickson and change bowled over (which is never happening).

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel Agree, but would suggest that 1B is the NL version of DH when inhabited by Prince Fielder. Billy’s not a terrible 1st baseman, better than CRob from what I hear, he just isn’t near Hosmer quality, so is the DH. The key to any Billy deal is to get enough talent to compensate for what we give up, which is consistent production. I think Billy retires a Royal because nobody will give us what he is worth to us.

  • Kevin Scobee

    @michael.allen.engel@jim fetterolf In nearly 200 less at-bats in the minors Butler hit only 11 less homeruns, walked 70 more times, struck out less than 30 times, and had 25 more hits than Moustakas. Yeah, these are some crude statistics, and I am not at all a fan of Moustakas’ for a variety of reasons both on and off the field related, but I just don’t see where everyone assumes he’s this untouchable force and Butler is a mediocre hitter. If anything, they’re the same guy. Moustakas: more power, zero on-base skills, terrible defense. Butler: limited power, above-average on-base skills, terrible defense. In the end, I bet their careers or more similar than one being a superstar and the other being simply a chubby guy that hits singles. (This is in no way your point, Jim, you just poked me for another issue.)

    To your point: Swapping Butler for a pitcher and replacing him with Robinson would drastically hurt this team. Drastically. As someone has mentioned to me before on this site that Butler is a “one-dimensional” player, then everyone doesn’t fully understand how great that “one-dimension” is. Even though Butler’s trade value my be perceived as “low” because of position, you mean to tell me someone wouldn’t want a hitter with his career track record, playing in a cavernous home park, entering his age 26 season? And a player who has missed a total of 10 games the last three seasons?

  • Kevin Scobee

    @jim [email protected] I like how you said that “what he is worth to us”. Because it’s true. In the open market players of his skill are probably worth more money than what the Royals have him for, and his value does get hurt a little because the lack of counting stats both a product of his home park and his approach at the plate. For the Royals though, having someone with his track record of production, at his price, and his durability, means a lot. Also, if for no other reason, than in a market like Kansas City every dollar must be watch more closely. Having Butler’s consistency does mean something.

    Well said.

  • Al Kaline

    Now the Tigers could be a destination for Butler.

  • Al Kaline

    Now the Tigers could be a destination for Butler.

  • Kevin Scobee

    @Al Kaline Unless it’s for Jacob Turner I don’t think there’s a whole lot I would take from Detroit for Butler. Their team is awfully top heavy, and those aren’t the type of guys teams will get rid of because those are the guys that make differences.

  • Kevin Scobee

    @Al Kaline Unless it’s for Jacob Turner I don’t think there’s a whole lot I would take from Detroit for Butler. Their team is awfully top heavy, and those aren’t the type of guys teams will get rid of because those are the guys that make differences.

  • jim fetterolf

    @Kevin [email protected] Billy is a fine hitter and his so-called flaws can be seen as a result of not being surrounded by enough talent. Moose looks also to be a fine hitter, more of a power stroke maybe, but his advantage is that he seems an average, at least, 3B, so should be able to stay in a position for awhile. He’s also quite a bit faster than Billy and quite a bit cheaper. Fortunately, it’s not an either/or situation for us, we can have both for awhile.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf@Kevin Scobee Yeah, that’s the good thing – we don’t have to choose

  • jim fetterolf

    @Kevin [email protected] Billy is a fine hitter and his so-called flaws can be seen as a result of not being surrounded by enough talent. Moose looks also to be a fine hitter, more of a power stroke maybe, but his advantage is that he seems an average, at least, 3B, so should be able to stay in a position for awhile. He’s also quite a bit faster than Billy and quite a bit cheaper. Fortunately, it’s not an either/or situation for us, we can have both for awhile.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @jim fetterolf@Kevin Scobee Yeah, that’s the good thing – we don’t have to choose

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  • davidwlowe

    @Kevin Scobee @michael.allen.engel @jim fetterolf I’m calling bullcrap on this post. Moose did not display “terrible defense” at 3B last year. He was much better than I thought he would be, as he made plays over and over that I thought I wouldn’t. As for OBA, Moose displayed all kinds of on base in the final month, and his BA has been more than enough to compensate for a lack of walks throughout the minors.

    If you have some non-public information regarding Moose’s off the field performance that you don’t like, I guess that might change my mind if you shared it with the rest of us.

  • davidwlowe

    @Kevin Scobee @michael.allen.engel @jim fetterolf I’m calling bullcrap on this post. Moose did not display “terrible defense” at 3B last year. He was much better than I thought he would be, as he made plays over and over that I thought I wouldn’t. As for OBA, Moose displayed all kinds of on base in the final month, and his BA has been more than enough to compensate for a lack of walks throughout the minors.

    If you have some non-public information regarding Moose’s off the field performance that you don’t like, I guess that might change my mind if you shared it with the rest of us.

  • jim fetterolf

    @davidwlowe @Kevin Scobee @michael.allen.engel @jim fetterolf I thought Moose was a bit above average at 3rd, although Hosmer probably saved him ten throwing errors, and I predict that he’ll walk quite a bit this coming season batting in the 5th spot ahead of Frenchy. Most of last season there was no reason to throw balls to Moose, just let him swing and get himself out eight of ten times. This year will probably be a little different.

  • jim fetterolf

    @davidwlowe @Kevin Scobee @michael.allen.engel @jim fetterolf I thought Moose was a bit above average at 3rd, although Hosmer probably saved him ten throwing errors, and I predict that he’ll walk quite a bit this coming season batting in the 5th spot ahead of Frenchy. Most of last season there was no reason to throw balls to Moose, just let him swing and get himself out eight of ten times. This year will probably be a little different.