Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you want Billy Butler?

So word got around yesterday that Kansas City's Billy Butler may be available, as the Royals would like to free up money to acquire pitching.

Buster Olney mentioned Houston as a possibility, due to their "desperate need for credible hitters." I saw the note yesterday, and didn't think much of it, but now I guess it's something we can at least entertain for a morning.

Butler will be 28 next April, and was the Royals' 1st Round pick in 2004 (14th overall). He is owed $8m in 2014 with a $12.5m team option for 2015, or a $1m buyout. He's durable, having played in at least 158 games from 2009-2013, mainly because 150 of his appearances in 2013 came at DH.

Now, Houston does need more hitters, that's true. Butler is a career .298/.364/.459 hitter, but in 2013 posted his lowest OPS since 2008, his second season in the Majors, hitting .289/.374/.412 with 15 homers, 102 strikeouts, and 79 walks. He also grounded into 28 double plays, but that's perhaps not as important. Do the Astros need a hitter like that on the team? Sure, but do they need a guy who is basically limited to the DH spot where, ideally, Chris Carter can rotate in and out? Butler provided 1.4 WAR in 2013 (FanGraphs version), and his defense was rated at -16.1, so yeah, he's going to need to DH.

If it's pitching the Royals are looking for, the Astros (in theory, at least) have it. But it's the age-old question: Who would you give up for a DH-only hitter that forces Chris Carter into the outfield (presuming Singleton is ML-ready in 2014)? Would you make a deal for 2012 Billy Butler, who posted a 2.9 WAR and an .883 OPS? He's not great at baserunning, and bad at defense. But the numbers indicate that maybe Butler had a bad 2013 - and the Astros might try to capitalize on it, depending on what the Royals want in return.

Further reading: Billy Butler's Country Breakfast Doesn't Satisfy (FanGraphs), 
Royals Willing To Deal Butler? (Kansas City Star)