Billy Butler probably thought the A’s were in his rear-view mirror after the American League Wild Card Game.
Then Oakland general manager Billy Beane came calling the moment that open free agency began following the World Series. That’s how Butler, a career-long Kansas City Royal, found himself agreeing to a three-year, $30 million contract to join the team he helped eliminate in that Sept. 30 win-or-go-home game.
Butler became the A’s first significant addition of this offseason when the deal was announced Wednesday. He’ll split his time between designated hitter and first base and help anchor the middle of Oakland’s lineup.
“It was a tough situation to leave, but Day 1 of free agency, Billy was in contact with my agent, showing his interest,” Butler said on a media conference call. “I’m a very loyal guy and that type of stuff -- just showing his interest in me, his expectation of what I can accomplish, what my role would be in Oakland -- it hit me where it mattered most.”
It’s been a bittersweet sequence for the 28-year-old Butler, a Florida native who was a first-round draft pick of the Royals in 2004 and rode out the rough times with that franchise before Kansas City made an unexpected run to the World Series this fall.
After eight seasons wearing Blue and White, he joins the team that was in the opposing dugout as the Royals pulled out a 12-inning, 9-8 Wild Card win that ignited their postseason run.
Butler said he’s admired the A’s from afar as they’ve strung together playoff berths each of the last three seasons.
“I’ve gotten a few texts from a couple guys already,” Butler said. “I played with Jesse Chavez with the Royals, I’m good friends with him. I know Josh Donaldson from way back in high school. We played against each other. He’s a real good player. I’m honored to play with him.”
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And getting a chance to play first base, a position Butler hasn’t played significantly since 2010, appeals to him. Butler primarily has been a designated hitter for the past four seasons. But he spent August of last season holding down first while Eric Hosmer was sidelined by a fractured hand; Butler hit .288 with four homers and 16 RBI in August. The homers and RBI were his monthly highs for the season.
Beane said Butler will see substantial time at both DH and first, and A’s manager Bob Melvin has indicated he envisions Butler hitting cleanup against left-handers, and batting fifth against righties behind Donaldson and Brandon Moss.
“It kind of sparked my offense,” Butler said of playing first base. “You need some change to get your mind off hitting. The ability to go out there every day and play 2-3 times a week, it makes you relax.”
Butler’s hitting has dropped off significantly since he was an All-Star in 2012. Last season, he hit .271 with just nine home runs and 66 RBI, but he’s confident of a rebound.
“I’m 28 years old, I’m not on the other side of my career,” Butler said. “It was a year that not a lot of things went right for me.”