As the July trade deadline was fast approaching, Billy Butler was a name that had been circulating as a possible trade chip for the Royals. The Seattle Mariners, who had coveted Butler for some time, were thought to be interested in picking up the Royals designated hitter had they decided to sell. Naturally, Butler stated that he did not want to leave the Royals, and that he hoped if the team was not interested in picking up his option for next season, that they could discuss an extension.
At the time, Butler had produced a .269/.320/.348 batting line with all of three home runs. As someone whose only job was to hit, those numbers simply were not good enough. As few teams are spending large sums of cash on designated hitters anyway, it definitely made sense as to why Butler would want the option to be picked up for more than sentimental reasons. Given his perceived defensive limitations, it seemed unlikely that Butler was going to get anything close to what he had been earning this season.
Yet, since Eric Hosmer was injured and Billy Butler began to play first base virtually every day, something happened. Butler transformed back into the hitter that the Royals have come to expect over the past few seasons, producing a .330/.369/.526 batting line with four home runs in his last 27 games. Not only has that surge helped propel the Royals to the top of the American League Central, but it has also earned him the cover of the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated, as they highlight the Royals resurgence.
That surge may also be paying off for Butler in other ways. Not only is Butler beginning to hit as the Royals knew he was capable of, but he has played a solid first base since Hosmer has been injured. This production, as well as his somewhat usefulness around the bag, could end up earning Butler more money than he was a month ago. Now, he may not be limited to American League teams looking for a designated hitter; a National League team could potentially give him a chance at first base as well.
It may even be that Billy Butler has performed well enough where his time in Kansas City may not be over. As unlikely as it seemed a month ago, the recent turnaround by Butler may ignite those discussions of an extension, allowing Butler to get his wish to remain a Royals for more than the rest of the 2014 season. If he helps spearhead a push to the postseason, it may be difficult for Dayton Moore and Ned Yost to part ways with Butler.
Next season, the Royals hold a $12.5 Million option on Butler with a $1 Million buyout. It is about as likely that the Royals pick up that option as it is that would be able to purchase the Royals with the money between my couch cushions. However, that amount could give the framework for an extension. Given the price for designated hitters these days, a two year extension for a total of $13 to $14 Million could be enough for Butler to sign on the dotted line.
Billy Butler has begun to hit and produce as expected. Now, Butler may be proving his value to the Royals going forward.