KC Royals Let Billy Butler Go At The Right Time
KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore is well-known to value faith and family in his job. But he still was able to make the tough call to let long-time Kansas City Royals DH Billy Butler walk after the 2014 season.
The now 29-year-old Billy Butler was one of the few jewels in the KC Royals system when Dayton Moore took over in Kansas City. Butler, no. 2 overall draft pick Alex Gordon (2005), and pitcher Zack Greinke were about the only pieces Moore had to build around with a Kansas City Royals organization that was largely bereft of talent.
By all accounts, Billy Butler was a good clubhouse guy, and good family man, during his days with the KC Royals. Butler had blossomed into a dangerous bat that had earned an All-Star nod in 2012 with an excellent .313/.373/.510 triple slash with 29 home runs and 107 RBI’s.
But, by the time the Kansas City Royals won the American League pennant in 2014, Butler had slipped to what appeared to an anomalous .271/.323/.379 line in 2014. Yet, the glow of playoff success in 2014, and some key hits in Game 2 of the World Series, made it easy to think that the KC Royals would bring Butler back rather than allow him to walk away from a team that thrived due it is strong clubhouse chemistry.
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When Oakland’s Billy Beane offered Butler a three-year, $10 million contract to sign with the A’s, Dayton Moore elected not to match. Instead, Moore signed switch hitter Kendry Morales to a two-year, $21 million deal to take over Butler’s DH spot. On one hand, I was sad that Butler didn’t get to enjoy the World Series win in 2015 after suffering through the tough years. But, it was the right move for the organization.
Dayton Moore showed that despite his emphasis on faith, family, and clubhouse chemistry, he can still make tough choices for the good of the team.
Though Butler was then only 28-years-old, and enjoyed an outstanding .295/.359/.449 career line in his eight seasons with the KC Royals, Moore correctly recognized that Butler’s skills faded badly in 2014. The 6’0″ 260 pound Butler had never been a paragon of physical conditioning during his time with the Kansas City Royals, which compounded Butler’s lumbering “speed” and limited defensive ability at first base.
Moore correctly judged that Billy Butler, much like portly third baseman Pablo Sandoval who was also a free-agent in 2014, possessed a body type that would not age well. The sabermetric-inclined Red Sox made the mistake of handing the fading Sandoval a five-year, $95 million deal, while the sabermetric-inclined Billy Beane offered $30 million to Billy Butler.
The scouting-heavy KC Royals organization didn’t make that mistake.
Today, Pablo Sandoval is sitting on the bench in Boston behind the unheralded 25-year-old Travis Shaw. Meanwhile, Billy Butler is now nothing more than the right-handed half of a DH platoon in Oakland following a horrendous .251/.323/.390 slash line in 2015. Butler’s bat speed looks almost as bad as his foot speed.
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For the KC Royals to have any hope of continuing their winning ways past the post 2017 free-agent exodus of first baseman Eric Hosmer, centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas, closer Wade Davis, starter Edinson Volquez, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and outfielder Jarrod Dyson, Dayton Moore will have to continue making tough choices like he did with Billy Butler.
Moore can’t re-sign them all.