When it comes to rumors during the hot stove, one must always pay close attention to detail. Here is Jayson Stark's quote from earlier in the week:
Also hearing #Royals haven't completely dismissed idea of dangling Billy Butler. They make sense as a Cruz destination if Butler gets movedAt first glance, this makes it appear as though Kansas City is attempting to offload Butler in an attempt to sign Nelson Cruz. Also, as Twitter ran away with this tweet, this is what the rumor became. The tweet actually has two parts. First, Jayson Stark is reporting a rumor that he has heard: "Royals haven't completely dismissed idea of dangling Billy Butler." Second, he is adding in speculation on what Kansas City might do if they do move Butler.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 10, 2013
Rumors are flimsy enough during this time of year, but we can help ourselves out by doing a better job of distinguishing what is speculation from what might actually be being discussed by front offices. This brings me back to the MLB Trade Rumors post from last night.
It seems that many in the Royals Twitterverse read the post and quickly took it as the Royals were trading Butler and prospects to Toronto in order to clear payroll for Nelson Cruz. If you read the post again you'll notice that these are two separate pieces of information, once again with half being actual rumblings and the other half being speculation on the part of Jayson Stark.
Also, we should just use common sense. Billy Butler is making $8.5 million in 2014 and has a $12.5 million option for 2015. He definitely isn't an asset that needs to be dumped. His contract isn't an albatross so the Royals don't need to add in prospects in order for a team to take Butler off of their hands. So why add the prospects?
If the Royals truly are discussing sending Butler and prospects to Toronto than it would quite clearly be for a legitimate Major League piece. Toronto offers a few options on this front. Colby Rasmus has been rumored to have been shopped around this winter and we know he is a player that the Royals have been rumored to be interested in before. Jose Baustista is another guy that there have at least been rumblings that he could be moved. Adam Lind is a guy that would likely be available. I'm sure the Blue Jays wouldn't mind moving R.A. Dickey or Mark Buehrle.
Finally, we should note that Jeff Blair stated the teams "have talked" and did not say that they are talking or are discussing. It is possible that Blair, meant that talks are on going, but it is also possible that these talks occurred earlier in the off-season and have since ended. Perhaps this Butler plus prospects for Rasmus was being discussed before Kansas City acquired Aoki and was still in on Beltran? We just don't know.
One thing that I do feel confident about is that the Royals have been very active in shopping Billy Butler. We discussed some of the reasons why in this post. Yesterday we even heard from a Royals official that they would like to use that spot as a rotation in the near future.
I wasn't in a position where I could pass this along last year, but I was told from a very high Royal source that even last off-season there were Royals officials that thought it would be best to move Butler. Ultimately, the front office felt like if the team was serious about contending in 2013, it would be too hard to justify trading away their top hitter. Coming off a down season a year later, it seems that the front office finally feels like a Butler trade is justifiable. At this point I'd be a little surprised to see him open 2014 in Kansas City.