Saturday, March 8, 2014

Billy Butler wants to Be Royal

Since 2009, there hasn't been a sturdier piece to the Royals than designated hitter Billy Butler. Over the last five seasons, the former first round pick has locked himself into the heart of the order by hitting .302/.372/.469.

As a Royal he has compiled 12.9 bWAR and 9.8 fWAR, while earning approximately $20.79 million in salary. When you throw in the $1.45 million signing bonus that Bill the Thrill received when drafted, then the Royals have paid about $1.72 million per bWAR and $2.26 per fWAR. Those numbers figures to rise by the end of 2014, as Butler's discounted years are all used up and he will be earning $8 million with a $12.5 million option for 2015.

Obviously, Butler has had a fine career in Royals blue and his contributions to the franchise have likely already earned him a trip to the Royals Hall of Fame, but according to Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports, Butler wants to be a Royals forever. Here's what our chubby DH said on the subject:
"No one wants to be playing out their final year, so if something can get done before 2015, that would be great. I'm sure they'll want to see how things go with me and the club this season before they do anything. I'm not opposed to (contract talks) during the season. But I will say most guys, and I'm in that group, generally don't like to talk contract during the season. It just gets to be a distraction. But maybe something will happen before this season starts. If not, hopefully it will happen next offseason."
In January 2011, Butler signed his first extension with the Royals. The deal guaranteed him $30 million over four seasons with a $12.5 million option for a fifth year. At the time of the deal I estimated that Butler would need to be worth about 6 fWAR during those four years to be worth the contract. In the first three years he has compiled 5.3 fWAR. The deal hasn't been the slam dunk that I thought it could, but it is safe to say the Royals will return value for the first four years of the deal.

As for the option, $12.5 million would mean that Butler needs to be about a 2.5 fWAR player in 2015. This definitely impossible, but it isn't a slam dunk either as Butler has accomplished this feat just twice over the last five seasons. With this being said, it is hard to imagine Butler performing so poorly in 2014 that his option isn't picked up in 2015.

More likely, I would envision a scenario in which the Royals might rework Butler's 2015 option into a two or three year extension at a lower cost. A three year deal for Butler following 2014, would encompass his age 29-31 seasons. If Butler truly desires to be in Kansas City above every where else, perhaps he would be willing to leave some money on the table in order to obtain some long term security.

Of course, not mentioned in all this are the rumors that Kansas City was very proactive in trying to move Butler this off-season. This is likely an indication that they feel a $12.5 million 2015 salary is too high for the full time DH. Also, there has been mention that the Royals brass want to utilize the DH spot to rotate in tired players like Salvador Perez, instead of devoting it to one player. If this is the case, then the Royals could pick up Butler's 2015 option and again look to move him next off-season.

The catch 22 is that if the Royals couldn't fair offer for Butler at $8 million in 2014, how will they be able to for $12.5 in 2015. In order to do so, Butler would need to be coming off a better year in 2014, and if he does that why wouldn't the Royals be keeping him for $12.5 next season? It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 12 months.

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