Billy Butler‘s quest to find a team has reportedly reached its final destination. The former Kansas City Royals designated hitter is a free agent for the first time in his career, so this was a new experience. 

According to Robert Murray of MLB Daily Rumors, Butler has agreed to a contract with the Oakland Athletics: 

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale added:

ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney also confirmed the terms of the contract. 

If ever there was a case study on the market value of designated hitters in this era of baseball, Butler was it. He’s a 28-year-old hitting specialist incapable of playing a position, at least in any kind of effective manner, and he had the worst offensive season (.271/.323/.379) of his career in 2014. 

The Royals, whose payroll climbed to over $90 million for the first time last season, didn’t exercise their $12.5 million option on Butler. At the time, Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore told Dick Kaegel of that the team was interested in bringing the DH back at a lower rate:

Billy’s been a huge part of our success, and we’re going to stay engaged with him and do everything we can to bring him back.

The only thing I can say about that is we want him back. We’re obviously not in a position now to pick up a $12 million option, but we welcome the opportunity to bring him back.

Butler is also quoted in the piece as saying that he wanted to return, and he’s “a Royal at heart.” Ultimately, he hit the market at an inopportune time due to the competition at his position. Victor Martinez, another DH and superior hitter, was also available this winter before the Detroit Tigers threw a mega contract his way. 

Drew Fairservice of FanGraphs wrote about the problems that teams face with one-dimensional hitters (average, no speed, no power) and how that drastically limits interest:

It makes these hitters, high average and good contact rates though they claim, tough sells for teams in need of offense.

Both are defensive zeroes with nothing to offer on the bases, a lack of foot speed which further limits the contributions with the bat. The company they keep speaks volumes about the type of player who can make this style work.

There’s no denying that Butler’s profile isn’t great, though that doesn’t mean he has no value. He’s just two years removed from hitting .289/.374/.412 and in 2012 hitting 29 home runs. It becomes a matter of figuring out whether you believe this season was a blip on the radar or a sign that his decline phase has set in. 

Given Butler’s age and track record, there’s reason to be optimistic that he can find that swing again. He’s also durable, having played no less than 151 games in each of the last six years, which can only bode well for his numbers in his new home.

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