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The A’s made an early splash in free agency, with all signs pointing to Oakland hammering out a three-year, $30 million contract with former Kansas City Royals DH/first baseman Billy Butler.
The web site mlbdailyrumors.com reported Tuesday night a deal was in place, with other national outlets soon to confirm.
Butler, a longtime Royal who drove in two runs against the A’s in the American League Wild Card game, is a right-handed hitter with a track record of middle-of-the-lineup production. He was an All-Star in 2012, when he hit .313 with 29 home runs and 107 RBI. But his numbers have dipped considerably over the last two seasons.
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In 2014, Butler hit .271 and mustered just nine homers and 66 RBI as the Royals made their unlikely charge to the World Series. His on base-plus-slugging percentage has dropped from a healthy .882 in 2012 to .702 by the end of 2014. Given that offensive dip, it’s an aggressive signing for the A’s and a somewhat risky one.
But Butler turns just 29 in April, young enough to suggest a turnaround is possible and that he can get back to the kind of production he had earlier in his career. There’s no doubt the A’s could use some pop from the right side of the plate.
After leading the majors in runs over much of the first half of 2014, Oakland’s offense sank after the All-Star break and nearly cost the A’s a postseason berth altogether. They ranked eighth in the American League in runs over the second half, 12th in homers and 14th in slugging percentage.
Butler has spent the past four seasons primarily as a designated hitter, so he could slot in as the regular DH. Or, given that Oakland likes to rotate players through the DH spot to give them some rest, they could ask Butler to grab his first baseman’s glove and play there against lefties, perhaps platooning there with Brandon Moss. Butler last played first regularly in 2010.
The A’s hit an A.L.-worst .239 against left-handed pitching last season. Butler is a career .314 hitters against lefties.