Billy Butler spent the past two seasons as the Royals’ primary first baseman, starting 143 games there in 2009 and another 126 games there in 2010, but this year manager Ned Yost has opted to go with Kila Ka’aihue at first base while using Butler at designated hitter.
Butler is still holding out hope that his glove won’t merely collect cobwebs for the rest of his career, telling Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star “there’s no doubt” he’d prefer to be playing first base “but I’m not going to make an issue out of not playing over there.”
Asked if he understands Butler’s desire to play first base, manager Ned Yost replied:
Sure I do, but you know what, I’d like to be an astronaut … and for some reason, they just won’t let me. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes, people find their niche.
Ka’aihue is far from a sure thing to be in the Royals’ long-term plans, but with various big bats coming up through their stocked farm system odds are Butler will always be the most obvious DH choice. There have certainly been plenty of worse-fielding regulars at first base over the years, but Butler is never going to be anything but below average there and the time at DH isn’t hurting his production at the plate, as he’s hitting .368 with a 1.037 OPS through 16 games.
He has a much better chance of being an everyday first baseman again than Yost does of being an astronaut, but neither is an especially great idea.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.