KC Royals: Club’s latest signing is a head-scratcher

(Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports) /

The KC Royals signed another pitcher this week. Why is a bit of a mystery.

From a distance, he bears a certain resemblance to KC Royals pitcher Wade Davis. There’s the beard, and the fact he’s a righthander.

And he has some things in common with Davis—he’s a starter turned reliever, a former Chicago Cub, and now a Kansas City pitching reclamation project.

But why the Royals signed Eddie Butler earlier this week (a day after bringing back Alcides Escobar) can’t be explained as easily as their offseason reacquisition of Davis, if it can be explained at all.

There was much, of course, understandable about the club signing Davis in January. He was, until injuries marred his last two seasons, one of the game’s finest closers, and a major contributor to the Royals’ 2014 American League pennant and their 2015 World Series title. And he fit the profile of a typical Kansas City salvage operation: an excellent big league pitcher fallen on hard times, searching for another chance.

Butler is another product of Kansas City’s seemingly never-ending rummage of the pitching scrap heap. Unlike Davis, though, little of his current resume suggests this latest retooling project will succeed.

The veteran of parts of five big league seasons dating back to 2014, Butler simply hasn’t proven he’s major league worthy. He began as a starter, but a 3-10 record in 16 starts with the Rockies in 2015 was a precursor to his 2018 switch to the bullpen.

But becoming a reliever didn’t work out well, either—in a 30-appearance season split between the Cubs and Rangers, Butler saved two games, but was 2-3 with a 5.62 ERA and 6.14 FIP. The Rangers outrighted him after that season; Butler elected free agency instead, then spent 2019 starting for the Korean Baseball Organization’s NC Dinos where he was an unremarkable 3-6, 4.76 in 13 games.

Butler returned to the U.S. and posted a forgettable 0-7, 5.64 record with the independent Chicago Dogs last season.

All things considered, then, his signing is a bit of a mystery, and a surprise: he signed with the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Tuesday, and the Royals snatched him up by purchasing his contract the very next day:

What evidence arguably supportive of the Royals’ acquisition of Butler is largely outdated. He was a supplemental first round pick (46th overall) of the Rockies in the 2012 draft, and impressed with a 7-1, 2.13 Rookie ball season after signing with the club. He followed in 2013 with a 9-5, 1.80 2013 split between Classes A, High-A and Double-A, a good (albeit short) eight-game Triple-A stint (2-0, 2.17) in 2017, and a decent 4-3, 3.95 13-game record with the Cubs that same season. And he appeared on various top prospect lists earlier in his career.

To complete the picture, Butler’s had some injury issues, most notably rotator cuff inflammation in 2014 and a groin issue in 2018, but the fact remains he’s rarely been effective. Testament to that are his major league numbers—12-22, 5.81 in 79 games.

As of this writing, he doesn’t appear on the club’s 40-man roster or the rosters of any of its farm teams.

Where, and for how long, Butler might fit in the Kansas City organization is a question only his performance will answer. The bigger question, though, is why Kansas City signed him, especially considering the wealth of pitching talent in the organization.

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The KC Royals added pitcher Eddie Butler earlier this week. Why isn’t entirely clear.