The KC Royals brought back free-agent catcher Drew Butera by agreeing to a two-year, $3.8 million deal on Friday afternoon.
Kansas City Star beat writer Rustin Dodd broke the news via Twitter:
Signing Drew Butera solves the backup catcher dilemma for the Kansas City Royals at a very reasonable cost. Butera is a solid defensive receiver who slashed a career-high .285/.328/.480 in 2016 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 133 plate appearances.
However, the KC Royals can’t really expect the 33-year-old Butera to maintain this performance level since he’s a career .198/.253/.295 hitter. I suppose Kansas City fans can hope he’s made a breakthrough with the bat. But, it would be foolish to count on it.
I’ve long advocated for starting catcher Salvador Perez to get more rest during the regular season. This hope can become a reality if the Kansas City Royals keep the designated hitter spot as a rotating position with Kendrys Morales‘ departure this winter after signing a three-year, $33 million contract with Toronto.
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In 2017, I’d like to see KC Royals manager Ned Yost insert Butera behind the plate against left-handed starters. He could keep Perez’s bat in the lineup as the DH while using the right-handed hitting Butera to his best platoon advantage.
But, Butera’s career platoon splits don’t really support such a plan. In his strong 2016 season, Butera hit .316/.356/.526 against righties and .179/.233/.321 versus lefties. For his career, Butera’s splits are .202/.257/.302 vs. righties and .191/.242/.280 vs. lefties.
Such an arrangement, however, would give Perez a lot more rest. It also could prevent Perez’s typical second half slide which is likely due to fatigue from overuse.
Sal Perez Is Suffering From Overuse
Salvador Perez has caught more regular season innings than any catcher in baseball at 4662.0 the last four years. The only player even close is St. Louis backstop Yadier Molina at 4415.0 innings. Behind Molina in third place is Jonathan Lucroy at 4064.2. Perez also leads all catchers in Fangraphs.com’s DEF metric over the same time span at 60.8. Russell Martin checks in at second at 53.1 with Lucroy third at 48.6 and Molina in fourth at 47.4.
Note that heavy use EXCLUDES 2014 and 2015 World Series runs in which Perez started every playoff game for the Kansas City Royals. Including playoff series adds another 31 games.
Perez has also won four consecutive A.L. Gold Gloves beginning in 2013. Clearly, Perez’s defensive prowess is the big reason that Yost has asked Salvador Perez to catch so many games.
In the end, I like bringing back Drew Butera. The price is right and he’s coming off a strong year in Kansas City. But, he doesn’t seem to be an ideal platoon partner to rest Salvador Perez.