A Few Words on Billy Butler

Dave · December 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The Mariners keep getting linked to Royals DH Billy Butler, because the Mariners are looking for offensive improvements and the Royals are shopping for pitching. So, let’s just say a few words about Billy Butler.

The basics: he’s a 27-year-old DH who is under team control for the next three seasons. The original contract called for him to make $8 million in base salary for each of the next two years, then a $12.5 million team option for 2015, but there are unspecified incentives in the deal that push the 2015 option up to $14.5 million. Additionally, there’s an “assignment bonus” that gets added on if he’s traded, so the actual cost to the M’s would probably be something along the lines of 3/33.

For a +3ish win player, that’s a decent enough price. But it’s not the kind of huge bargain that should require a huge haul of young players in order to acquire him. Mike Napoli, for instance, just signed for 3/39 today, and offered the similar idea of a right-handed 1B/DH upgrade, but also offered the flexibility to catch part-time. Maybe you’d prefer Butler to some degree because he’s younger and his more recent performance is better, but there’s not a huge gap here, and clearly the market for these limited defensive players is limited by the fact that they can only sign with AL teams. Toss in the AL teams that aren’t shopping for a designated hitter, and even the best DH has a pretty limited market value, given the paucity of teams who are in the market for bat-only players.

And that’s one of the reasons I’m not overly interested in paying a high price in talent to acquire Butler. Yes, he’d instantly give the team a terrific hitter who could slot into the middle of the line-up, and people would tell you about how having that kind of guy changes a line-up and takes the pressure off the young kids, allowing them to develop at a better rate.

But, you know who had Billy Butler as the big bat in the middle of a line-up full of young kids last year? The Royals. You know how those kids did? Lousy. Eric Hosmer was bad. Mike Moustakas was bad. The 2012 non-Butler Royals hitters posted a composite wRC+ of 90. The 2012 Mariners had a wRC+ of 87. There’s no evidence that Billy Butler’s rising tide lifted any boats.

The decision on whether the Mariners should acquire a player should hinge on how much better he is than the guy he’d be replacing, not on the mythical impact he may or may not have on the guys who are going to have jobs either way. And realistically, Butler just isn’t a massive upgrade for the Mariners.

As we’ve discussed ad nauseum, the Mariners already have a glut of 1B/DH players. With John Jaso, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, and Mike Zunino, they have four guys who could theoretically be future building blocks at those three spots. The questions surrounding each are large enough that the team shouldn’t be afraid to add another body to that pile, but they also have to be aware of the fact that any C/1B/DH type who is slotted for regular playing time is going to get at-bats at the expense of one of the better young hitters in the organization, or in Smoak’s case, someone who was supposed to be. It’s one thing to add a guy with position flexibility — like a Nick Swisher — who can give you an extra 1B/DH option while also giving you the option of moving him to the outfield if everything breaks right and the kids all start hitting. It’s another thing to acquire a player who simply aces one of those guys out of a job.

The reward for bringing in Butler — which requires you to basically dump Smoak and make Montero a first baseman or dump Montero — is simply not going to be as high as the reward for bringing in an outfielder who doesn’t displace a guy who has some talent. And, naturally, if the reward is lower, the price also has to be lower as well.

James Paxton for Billy Butler? I’d probably do that, straight up, but I’m not convinced Paxton’s a starter long term. But, when you start talking about adding in a bunch of valuable trade chips, I’m out. The M’s are going to need those trade chips to get an outfielder if they don’t sign a guy like Swisher, and cashing those chips in to get Butler leaves you short in the OF and without a spot for a guy who has more talent than any in-house OF the team could turn to. And it only gets worse when Zunino gets promoted, and now you’re potentially punting a second member of that group.

I’m not all about keeping the kids and waiting for the prospects to develop, but I am in favor of using your trade chips in the best way possible. And Billy Butler is not the best way for the Mariners to use multiple trade chips of real value. Not while they have a glaring hole in the outfield, and not when Butler isn’t even really much of an option at first base, given his defensive limitations. Toss in that his body suggests he won’t age particularly well and that his baserunning is so atrocious that he diminishes his own offensive value, and Butler just isn’t a premium player.

But the Royals are going to want a premium return for him. They’re trying to win in 2013, and turning Butler into a pitching prospect isn’t going to help them with that. The Mariners don’t have what the Royals really want, and compensating with quantity over quality means that the team would to have to push their trade chips in on a +2 win upgrade. It’s just not worth it.

Yes, Butler’s a hitter. The Mariners need hitters. If that’s the end of your analysis, though, you’re not looking deep enough. And when you look deep enough, Butler isn’t a great fit for the M’s, and he’s not the guy they should be trading multiple young players for.


38 Responses to “A Few Words on Billy Butler”

  1. just a fan on December 3rd, 2012 5:10 pm

    I don’t think it’s fair to discount Butler’s nickname value. Country Breakfast. That has to count for something.

  2. coffeemonkey on December 3rd, 2012 5:10 pm

    Agreed, well said.

    I think this: “The 2012 non-Royals hitters posted a composite wRC+ of 90. The 2013 Mariners had a wRC+ of 87.”

    Should be this: “The 2012 non-Butler* hitters posted a composite wRC+ of 90. The 2012* Mariners had a wRC+ of 87.”

  3. SonOfZavaras on December 3rd, 2012 5:31 pm

    One hundred. Percent. Agree.

    I know how good the guy is with a bat in his hands, but he’s not the droid we’re looking for.

    I still think- despite San Diego’s claims to the contrary of availability- Chase Headley makes a lot of sense if we can’t land Swisher.

  4. ABP52380 on December 3rd, 2012 5:32 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Dave. For the last several weeks every time Ive heard Butlers name thrown around it’s made me cringe a bit. The overall package we’d have to give up, combined with the displacement of what many of us have envisioned as our ‘youthful core’ (Smoak, Montero, etc) just didn’t seem to make sense. I know the leash has grown exceedingly short on Smoak, but I’m not quite ready to discard him just yet. Further, you’d be selling quite low on him as well as Montero (the kid was a 22 year old rookie).

    Today I was glad to see Napoli get off the board. I’ll likewise be happy if Tampa or someone else pulls the trigger and gets Butler off the board.

    Upgrade the outfield, sign Swisher or something along those lines. I’ve come this far waiting on the youth, I’d hate to rush the process now.

  5. _Hutch_ on December 3rd, 2012 5:52 pm

    Gordon makes much more sense.

  6. little joey on December 3rd, 2012 5:56 pm

    It’s 3 years at 33, or two years at 16. Looks really different depending on how you characterize the facts, no?

    For 2/16, Butler looks like he’s a got a fair bit of surplus value. The Royals just committed some serious coin to Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie- who’s to say they wouldn’t love Vargas in a salary neutral trade?

    Seems like a good idea to keep this dialogue open is all I’m sayin.

  7. erik.randall on December 3rd, 2012 6:00 pm

    ABP52380 –

    Butler’s contract is decent and if he can be had for a little it has the potential to be good. Dave isn’t saying trading for Butler is bad. It could be good. He is just saying giving up too much for Butler is bad.

    I would not mind Smoak in that package depending on who the second person was.

  8. little joey on December 3rd, 2012 6:47 pm

    Vargas and Smoak for Butler would be fair.

  9. rth1986 on December 3rd, 2012 7:05 pm

    If the Mariners are dealing with the Royals, it better be for Myers or Gordon. Butler isn’t worth losing an elite prospect for.

    little joey,
    Vargas and Smoak for Butler would be more appealing, but I doubt the Royals would go for it.

  10. PackBob on December 3rd, 2012 7:15 pm

    I can see using the pitching prospects as trade chips, but I’d also like to hang on to all the top pitching prospects with the idea that 1 or 2 of 4 might make it, but you really don’t know which ones. Having the Big Three +1 in hand is a real luxury of potential with much better odds of one becoming a star pitcher.

    Trading Butler doesn’t seem to make much sense for the Royals even if they got a front-line pitcher. Whatever they gained in pitching they’d lose in offense. Butler simply shouldn’t be worth the kind of return the Royals would need to get.

  11. casey on December 3rd, 2012 7:16 pm

    thinking Jack blinks here and deal is something like Ackley and Hultzen for Myers.

  12. ABP52380 on December 3rd, 2012 7:18 pm


    I concur that Butlers a solid player and has come to Safeco in the past and completely raked. If we could acquire him, as Dave mentioned, for a player like Paxton straight up. I pull the trigger in a heart beat. The problem is that it’s going to require more than that. How much more? I don’t know. But depending on the site and the different asinine rumor it could be as much as a 2 of the big three and that being just a starting point.

    Rumors, Dave made a post specifically about them because they can get outlandish in a hurry. Butlers not the player I want to trade our blue chippers (plural) for. Z was quoted today as saying that it’s remarkable as to how each team has such a varying scale in terms of the value they place on a player. He went on to say that once that player establishes just so much as the proverbial drink of water in the big’s, their stock is significantly higher as ‘teams view them as major league ready.’

    Butler for cheap? Absolutely. Butler for what the market would probably dictate? No thanks.

  13. Milendriel on December 3rd, 2012 7:22 pm

    Whenever you begin a post title with “A few words…”, “A quick take…”, “A short post…” etc., I prepeare myself to read thousands of words. 🙂

  14. just a fan on December 3rd, 2012 8:10 pm

    You state Butler won’t age well. But if the M’s traded for him today, they’d be getting him for his age 27-29 seasons, not 31-33 as with Napoli.

    Sure, he can’t catch like Napoli “can”. But besides 2011, Butler has a better batting line than Napoli. Over the past four years, Butler has missed 11 games total. Napoli has played more than 114 games ONCE in his career (140 in 2010).

    Trading for Butler’s below market value contract might allow enough money to overpay for Nick Swisher.

    I don’t know if I would offer Paxton and Franklin for Butler, and of course I covet Gordon and Myers more. But one or the other plus some lesser pieces? Absolutely. Those other two Royals might not be available to us.

  15. lalo on December 3rd, 2012 8:50 pm

    The Royals want proven pitchers, they are even considering Felix Hernández for Billy Butler, haha…

  16. TumwaterMike on December 3rd, 2012 9:08 pm

    How about Jack Z. pulling off one of his 3 team deals. Say a couple of mid-level prospects to the Marlins for Ricky Nolasco, who wants to leave. Then trade Nolasco and maybe a throw-in for Billy Butler. The Royals are looking for some major league pitching. Just a thought.

  17. jwgrandsalami on December 3rd, 2012 9:22 pm

    I totally agree on Billy Butler and I want the M’s to either try hard to get Alex Gordon or do what it takes to get Nick Swisher. For some reason though, Jack Zduriencik keeps talking like he doesn’t have enough money (first saying that the M’s aren’t going to be in on Hamilton, then talking about how signing Hisashi Iwakuma and Oliver Perez take away much of his flexibility).

    That kind of talk is just what I wouldn’t want to hear if I was Nick Swisher’s agent. With all the focus this winter on the Marlins trading away their free agent signings after just one year, players like Swisher are going to want to be sold that the organization is going to sign other players to contend and that they’re going to have a full no-trade clause for at least the first couple of years of the deal. It’s incredibly hard to reconcile Jack Z’s comments with the concept that the M’s are going to need to overpay to acquire Swisher.

    I just don’t see the M’s going that extra mile to lure free agents to sign with them. Their MO seems to be to throw up their hands and say “we made a fair offer, but the player chose to go elsewhere. We tried.” IMO this is a very important offseason for getting Felix Hernandez extended. I find it hard to believe that he’s going to sign an extension here before opening day unless the team shows that it wants to win. Hamilton/Swisher + another upgrade or two does that. Reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic does not.

  18. lalo on December 3rd, 2012 9:25 pm

    That would be great. But Nolasco would not be enough in my opinion.

    Maybe I´m a little bit naive, but I think there is a good chance for the M´s to end up with both, Hamilton and Justin Upton. Maybe trading first for Upton (Paxton,Franklin, etc…), and then overpay for Hamilton and trade for someone like Morse.

    Your lineup would be:

    Montero (DH/C/1B)
    Morse/Smoak (1B/DH)
    Seager (3B)
    Guti/Saunders (CF)
    Ryan (SS)

  19. zak24 on December 3rd, 2012 9:32 pm

    Unfortunately, Alex Gordon bats left handed. The brass probably wants a righty or two not only to balance the lefty heavy youth movement, but also to introduce the fans to the new left field wall dimensions properly.

    Wil Myers has to be the target right now. He’s right handed. He’s an outfielder. His Major League service clock hasn’t even started yet. We have the pitching at both levels to appeal to the Royals. They are just as desperate for pitching as we are for hitting. I have no idea what it would cost but a package for Myers and Butler ought to be what Jack Z has in mind. The fans in Seattle would take to Butler’s gaudy .325, 25HR, 95 RBIs up on the new scoreboard immediately, and Myers could be our answer to Trout. Also, I think it’s interesting that Myers was drafted as a catcher so in an emergency I’m sure he’d be fine for a few innings.. allowing us to carry just two catchers with Butler in the DH role full time?

    Give them Paxton, Ramirez, Vargas and Smoak for Butler and Myers. Sign Swisher to play first base.

    Opening Day:
    1. Ackley 2. Seager 3. Butler 4. Swisher 5. Myers 6. Montero 7. Saunders 8. Guti 9. Ryan

    Bench: Jaso, Andino, Wells, Carp

    On the way: Franklin

    The Future: Zunino

    4.Free Agent
    5.Free Agent/Trade/Beavan

    The Future: Felix, Hultzen, Walker, Maurer +

  20. Jamison_M on December 3rd, 2012 9:59 pm

    @zach24 : if we could trade for Butler and Myers and somehow hang on to Hultzen, Walker, Franklin, Zunino, Jaso, Ackley and Felix… sign me up!

  21. justinh on December 3rd, 2012 10:11 pm

    Josh Hamilton has spoken with former/retired Mariners, I’m guessing Griffey and Buhner. I would not be surprised if M’s get Upton/Swisher/Granderson, Hamilton, and maybe another starter wherein they could deal Vargas.

  22. justinh on December 3rd, 2012 10:14 pm

    BTW….Butler and Myers would require Walker/Hultzen/Franklin as just a starting point. KC is very fond of Hultzen.

  23. MrZDevotee on December 3rd, 2012 10:17 pm

    Do you have a similar write-up/ideas on Wil Myers? What should he realistically cost?

    Is he someone you’d rate highly?

    All meaning, is he a realistic target, since I’ve seen him mentioned and just really don’t know much about him beyond prospect “hype” (which sits awkwardly after what we’ve seen with Smoak).

  24. MrZDevotee on December 3rd, 2012 10:24 pm

    re: the above post

    Whoops. Nevermind, I saw the earlier posting on him. Thanks.

  25. IwearMsHats on December 3rd, 2012 11:11 pm

    Well boys and girls, I think we are going to have to start a “Just say ‘NAY!’ to Jason Bay” campaign. I hope and pray that it will be as successful as “No Way Jose” and the “Explosivo Miguel Olivo” campaigns

  26. RaoulDuke37 on December 4th, 2012 12:24 am

    “But, you know who had Billy Butler as the big bat in the middle of a line-up full of young kids last year? The Royals. You know how those kids did? Lousy.” ‘Nuff said!

  27. thurston24 on December 4th, 2012 1:36 am

    I don’t really want Butler for any prospect. He just doesn’t fit unless you jettison Montero unless Montero can play first base. Butler is such a poor hitter he can’t even play first reliably. I’m all for upgrading the roster but spending a top prospect for a DH isn’t the best idea. Prospects don’t just grow on trees.

  28. Gibbo on December 4th, 2012 2:14 am

    Zak24, yes Butler and Myers would be great but we would have to pay much more I think

  29. ripperlv on December 4th, 2012 2:29 am

    Butler? No. I hope JZ is playing poker with Gordon as the real target.

  30. stevemotivateir on December 4th, 2012 6:33 am

    Funny how a post that explains why Butler really isn’t a good fit here, leads to ridiculous speculation over how to acquire him anyway in the comments. Read the post a second time!

  31. MrZDevotee on December 4th, 2012 8:29 am

    But Steve, it’s Rosterbation Week in major league baseball during the Winter Meetings… The Dream Frenzy is at it’s peak, and reasonable minds come unglued (I mean, we’ve seen the names Barry Bonds and Ted Williams used in recent comment sections– and I’m not kidding).


  32. stevemotivateir on December 4th, 2012 10:56 am

    “Reasonable minds come unglued”….. I like that! I’d suspect that ‘glue’ isn’t the substance holding some heads in place, though;)

  33. currcoug on December 4th, 2012 11:11 am


    Provided that Baker is right about KC wanting them, my proposed trade on Scout.com was as follows:

    Ackley/Beavan/Ramirez for Myers/Giavotella.

  34. casey on December 4th, 2012 11:20 am

    that makes sense too although thinking the Royals would want one of the big three instead of Ramirez for Myers.

    Never been to scout.com will check that out!

  35. currcoug on December 4th, 2012 11:28 am

    Baker insists the Royals want pitchers with MLB experience, and are allegedly interested in Iwakuma, Ramirez and Beavan. I can understand KC’s interest in Iwakuma and Ramirez.

    I would prefer to sign Hamilton and keep our prospects, particularly Franklin.

  36. MissouriMariner on December 4th, 2012 11:36 am

    I’m not sure I am too happy about the Jason Bay rumors……a RH pull hitter that is not very good defensively?

  37. stevemotivateir on December 4th, 2012 12:39 pm

    For those going on about Baker’s comments, he’s only regurgitating what every other journalist and baseball fanatic already knows regarding KC. He isn’t some kind of godsend with exclusive insider knowledge. In fact, he might be the furthest from the loop of the journalists that follow the M’s.

  38. goat on December 4th, 2012 1:11 pm

    I thought Butler might be OK if the average salary was $9M/yr, but if it is closer to $11M/yr, you have to consider that the premier DH of the past decade topped out at about $15M/yr. Butler doesn’t seem that close to Big Papi in his prime.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.