The A’s announced that a three-year contract with free agent DH/first baseman Billy Butler is official.
The deal reportedly is for $30 million and represents Oakland’s first major move of the offseason.
Butler, a right-handed hitter and 2012 All-Star, figures to slot in at designated hitter. But he could also see time at first base against left-handed pitchers.
General manager Billy Beane is expected to discuss the move on a 10 a.m. media conference call.
Some initial thoughts:
- Is a three-year $30 million contract a bit of a reach for Butler? Maybe, but the A’s likely distanced themselves from other interested teams by guaranteeing a third year. The Royals reportedly were only game for re-signing Butler on a one-year deal. There were other interested teams, but it’s not known if anyone was willing to go beyond two years.
- Speaking of interested teams, the Seattle Mariners were rumored to have been in on Butler. So in signing him, the A’s also steered Butler away from a division contender trying to upgrade its offense to boost a strong pitching staff. The Mariners also like another veteran right-handed hitter – outfielder Torii Hunter.
- How will the 28-year-old Butler fare playing half of his games at the Coliseum? In 31 career games there, he’s a .252 hitter with three home runs and 12 RBI. But remember, he’s spent his first eight big league seasons calling Kauffman Stadium home. And it’s no picnic hitting there either.
- What are the roster ramifications of this signing? It seemingly would squeeze out Nate Freiman and Kyle Blanks, who both play first base and hit right-handed. Butler has spent the past four seasons as a full-time DH, but he also has the ability to play first base. He could draw starts there against left-handed pitchers.
- Finding a shortstop remains the most glaring of the A’s needs going into 2015. The free agent pool is thin. Exploring the international market is an option, but it’s always tough to gauge how a player’s numbers will translate to the majors. There’s also the trade route, and surely speculation will grow as to whether Oakland might deal a starter such as Scott Kazmir or Jeff Samardzija in order to land a shortstop.
- In case you’re curious about the A’s payroll situation for 2015, I calculate it at roughly $73 million right now. Put an asterisk by that. It includes estimated salaries for a whopping 14 arbitration-eligible players, as calculated by mlbtraderumors.com. There’s no guarantee those figures are spot-on, nor is there a guarantee the A’s will tender contracts to all those players. It also does not include salaries still owed to pre-arbitration players, who will make around the major league minimum. Last season, Oakland carried an Opening Day payroll of about $82 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.