Billy Butler is a very interesting player. I can’t decide if he is underrated or overrated, and finally accepted he is both. He is underrated because he is a much better hitter than he is given credit for. Last year was considered a down year for him, mostly because of his lack of homeruns. In 2012, Butler jacked 29 homeruns. Last year, only about half of that with 15. But his slugging pct last year was still a very respectable .412, and combine that with a phenomenal on base pct of .374, and you have an offensive force, regardless of the amount of homeruns.
But he is also overrated, because he is under 30, but plays defense like a 40 year old aging player. Either horribly or not at all. Fangraphs has him ranked at a -16.6 for Fielding and Position Adjustment, and his whole career has always hovered around that. His poor defense keeps his WAR down to 1.4 and he’s never had a yearly WAR above 3 his whole career.
But regardless, he is a strong trading chip due to offense being valued more than defense on the market, and with his good OPS and appearance of being a big guy with one of the most powerful swings in baseball, he can bring a nice return back to KC. Buster Olney recently tweeted the Royals were interested. The MLB Daily Dish also wrote a good piece advocating he should be traded, stressing he’s not quite as good as others, including home offices, may think”
This guy is one of those athlete’s with the ability to recall even the finest details of in-game events from his past. He’s like Ted Williams in that regard. If you ask him about a 2-2 pitch on May 3rd, 2008, he can tell you who threw it, what kind of pitch it was, and how far he probably hit it. But the comparison ends there between him and Williams. Butler is an excellent hitter, but he is by no means an all-time great. In fact, he might not even be one the league’s best right now, as far as total offensive production goes. In his career, he’s only cracked the top 20 once in wRC+. And while he has been consistently above average, it isn’t like “Country Breakfast” is the right-handed reincarnation of Teddy Ballgame, or even Lance Berkman for that matter. This season, Butler predictably had trouble maintaining a career-high 19.9% HR/FB ratio from 2012. His power numbers dropped accordingly and more than half of the balls he put in play were on the ground (53.1%). Not so good, Billy Ray.
So who would replace Butler at DH? How about the rumor going around of replacing him with Carlos Beltran? The Kansas City Star reports The Royals are indeed willing to lose a draft pick for him. Beltran wants 3 years, which may seem like a lot for his age, though it’s what Marco Scutaro received last year at about the same age. And for all intents and purposes, Scutaro is an inferior player. And even if Beltran is older, he is still putting up the numbers. Last year with The Cardinals, his slash was .296/.339/.491. Signing him to a contract would allow The Royals to trade Butler to fill a major need.
But what would those needs be for The Royals?
Second base – The Royals need a second baseman. The biggest name on the market appears to be Chase Utley, though with all of the money The Phillies are already throwing at first base, I don’t see why they would trade for Butler. Daniel Murphy or Rickie Weeks may be more logical targets.
Center field – It may take more than Butler, but Pittsburgh needs a first baseman, and they have a very attractive center fielder in Starling Marte. To acquire a young and uber talented centerfielder who still has a long career ahead of him like Marte, it may be worth giving up Butler and whatever else The Royals would have to part with.
Pitchers – Everyone needs pitchers, right? The Orioles were named recently as one of the teams interested in Butler, and they have a very talented power pitcher in Dylan Bundy. At one time a top-of-the-rotations starter, he has greatly regressed recently due to injury, and could be a target for The Royals to pick off Baltimore and hope he turns into the player he was once projected to be.
It was fairly easy to envision the Royals offseason shopping list. The Royals needed at least one, maybe two, starting pitchers, a second baseman and a right fielder. If they were able to locate a middle of the order bat in that list as well, it would be a bonus. While it was expected that the Royals may end up bargain hunting at second, potentially bringing in a decent veteran player for a year or two, Kansas City may have set their sights upon a bigger catch, someone that could provide that middle of the order production from second. That player – Brandon Phillips.
The article further goes to speculating that he has a toxic personality and it’d be a bad idea to allow him around young and developing players. That may be true, I can’t say. But I do know Phillips is overrated. He has a very mediocre on base pct, which he becomes so defensive about that he insults reporters. His slash last year was an average .261/.310/.396. His career on base is only .320. But he is very overvalued because he drove in 103 RBIs last year, which resulted from having major on base guys batting in front of him in the order.
His perceived and uncreditable value from this will result in The Reds wanting more than he’s worth. And he isn’t worth any of the major prospects The Royals have coming up.
So in my opinion, The Royals should sign Beltran. Even if he’s pricey, the short amount of years will make him affordable. They should try trading Butler in order to fill one of their holes. And do not bite on Phillips.
Any thoughts of your own on what they should do? Leave them in the comment section or talk to me on Twitter @pchibbard