May 27, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitterBilly Butler
(16) connects for a single in the third inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Seemingly every week, there are conflicting reports as to whether or not Billy Butler is on the trade block. He has been, then suddenly those rumors were false, and now he’s right back on the block. For a team that seemingly has designs on making a playoff push in 2014, it does not make much sense to trade one of the top hitters on the team, especially with no one there to really fill that void. However, a trade of Butler appears to be inevitable.
But what is the rationale for such a move? Perhaps it is partly due to the $20.5 Million due to Butler over the next two seasons. The Royals have repeatedly stated that they are against their payroll limit, yet have continued to pursue such players as Carlos Beltran and Jason Hammel while signing Omar Infante. There have been reports that ownership may be willing to go beyond their self imposed payroll cap if it involves bringing in the ‘right’ players. Keeping Butler would not seem to be a factor there.
There may actually be two reasons as to why the Royals may be willing to part ways with Butler, both of which tie into each other. First, the Royals have stated a desire to turn the designated hitter spot into more of a ‘rotating position,’ thereby allowing Ned Yost to put Salvador Perez‘s bat in the lineup on days when he is not catching. By not having a set designated hitter, Perez and Eric Hosmer could get partial days off, keeping their bats in the lineup while letting them get a bit of rest. On a team that struggled to score as much as the Royals did last season, keeping their better hitters in the lineup while when they are not in the field could help.
Also, by not having a set designated hitter, the Royals would no longer have to worry about how to get Billy Butler’s bat in the lineup during interleague games. They would just be able to rotate players in the lineup while keeping everyone ready to go. With interleague now being a season long part of the schedule, that may be something that the Royals are considering.
Based off that, the Royals are also not expected to offer Butler an extension. Since his contract is up following the 2015 season, this may be the optimal time to trade Butler and get back as much as possible. Even though he had a down year in 2013, Butler was still a solid hitter, finishing behind Hosmer in most offensive categories. His long awaited power surge could actually manifest if traded from Kansas City. A team may be willing to move a piece that the Royals would covet for a package involving Butler.
Would trading Billy Butler make the Royals better next season? Since their plan if Butler is moved appears to be signing Nelson Cruz, probably not. However, in a vacuum, the rationale behind such an idea may actually make sense. The only problem is that, in this case, making sense may not lead to a playoff berth. After 28 years of frustration, getting to the playoffs matters more than making sense.