Why the Billy Butler Deal Probably is Crazy

I’ll give Eno Sarris points for trying, although I fully expect his attempt to find value in Billy Butler’s three year, $30 million deal with the A’s will fuel the fires of those who think Billy Beane gets a pass for every move he makes. Hopefully, this post will assuage some of that, because despite Eno’s best efforts, I still don’t see why the A’s decided that Butler was the guy to go after this winter.

Yep, they needed a right-handed hitter, and Butler is probably a decent bounce back candidate, given his youth and prior production. They’re buying low on a not-terribly-old free agent, and for an annual salary that is basically right in line with what the 2/$18M that the crowd expected Butler to sign for. But I guess I just don’t see why you need to give a guy like Billy Butler a three year deal.

Last year, Kendrys Morales got shunned by the market and eventually took a prorated version of 1/$12M. Nelson Cruz got shunned by the market, and took 1/$8M right before the season began. Michael Morse and Corey Hart both got 1/$6M. Right-handed good-not-great hitters with minimal defensive value went for one year and somewhere in the range of $10 million.

At the end of the season, the Royals had to choose between paying Billy Butler $12.5 million for 2015, or paying him $1 million to go away. They chose the latter, suggesting that they didn’t believe he was worth $11.5 million (the net cost after factoring in the buyout) on a one year deal. Apparently no one else thought he was either, or else they would have asked the Royals to pick up the option and trade him for something of marginal value, as the Blue Jays did with Adam Lind.

So how did we get from there to 3/$30M? I don’t know. This deal just doesn’t seem to fit with what we saw the market say to similar players last year, or what the Royals just said to Butler last month. This just feels like one year too much.

If the A’s wanted a right-handed DH, why not call the Padres about Carlos Quentin? Do we really think he would have cost a significant piece of talent in return? Is Butler that much more likely to produce value in 2015 that he’s worth using up a significant amount of the A’s budget, especially given their middle infield hole?

I’m sure the A’s have their reasons for making this deal, and maybe they’re even similar to the ones Eno listed. Maybe all the other okay hitting/bat-only guys are going to sign for far more than we’ve expected, and the market for below average talent is about to take off. Or maybe the A’s just spent too aggressively for a player who just isn’t that good. Until I see good reason to assume otherwise, I’m going with the latter.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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9 years ago

Only reason this deal makes sense is if As thought they saw something fixable in him. I really like Butler and am sad to see him go, but not at this price.

9 years ago
Reply to  Yosted

they’d have to see something fixable AND think that someone else would outbid them if they offered 2/20.

Kansas City Oracle
9 years ago
Reply to  Yosted

We like Butler in KC and hope he does well for the A’s. However, he often seemed overpowered by insider hard stuff this year. The word was that he lost bat speed. It was perhaps illustrated in the 9th inning of game 7 or WS when Bumbgartner overpowered him with a 92 MPH fastball and he hit a foul pop to first baseman.

Kansas City Oracle
9 years ago

Also, you are going to hate how slow he is to first base.