The coming season means a lot to the Royals as a whole. The players, the front office, the fans, everyone is looking at 2014 as a pivotal point for the franchise. For the players, I think Billy Butler has the most riding on it. This is the year that we will find out a lot about our DH.
At the end of this season, the Royals are going to have to make a decision on Butler. Pick up the 2015 option and pay him $12.5 million to be in the lineup again, or pay him $1 million and wave goodbye. An extension is always another possibility I guess, but I will ignore it for now since the Royals have shown no interest in working on one, though if you heard Billy on Sports Radio 810 yesterday he seems genuinely interested . The key here for Butler is that he is going to get a shot at one long term contract, and that shot comes at the end of 2014 if the option is not picked up and at the end of 2015 if it is. Generally you want to get to free agency sooner rather than later, but in this case if isn’t true.
Assuming the option were declined, it implies that Butler is not worth a $12.5 million, 1 year contract. That is what it would take for Billy Butler to get his first taste of free agency in the coming off season. This would also imply that no one is going to be throwing a lot of money at him come season’s end. For Butler to not be worth a one year contract at that level, he would have to be worse than he was last year. In that case, he would be coming off of two sub-par seasons, and he is already a “bad body guy” who is expected to age poorly and can’t play any defensive positions which further limits what his potential market might be. Billy will lose a whole lot of money if he cannot get the Royals to pick up that option.
On the other hand, if they do pick it up, the Royals will have seen another solid year from Billy’s bat and be expecting him to hold down the DH spot again. At that point Butler will be a good 2015 away from a pretty good
sized payday. Again, his market is limited in free agency. He is almost certainly limited to the AL, and any team that signs him is forfeiting the flexibility of having that DH spot open to partially rest players. I still think that a 3 or 4 year deal at $10+ million would come from somewhere given how steady and productive Billy has been.
Luckily for Butler this may be the best year he could have picked for such a year. The lineup is likely to be the best he has ever been a part of. Slotted around him right now are likely to be Eric Hosmer ahead and Alex Gordon behind. If protection works, this is a lot better than Butler has had in the past. In front of him the lineup will no longer include Chris Getz or Alcides Escobar batting second. Instead, all three batters ahead of him will be above average major league bats.