This kind of doubles as a “what’s the market for Kendrys Morales?” post, too.
Anyway, the Royals have let it be known that Billy Butler is available, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. Had they done this a year ago, they would have been in line for a nice return. Now? Probably not so much. Butler will make $8 million next year, and his deal includes a 2015 option worth $12.5 million-$14.5 million, plus he’s due a little bonus if traded. For a pure DH, that’s a substantial sum. Also, Butler is also coming off his worst season since 2009. I assume he has better seasons in front of him, but since he’s a zero with the glove and a big minus on the basepaths, he needs to hit .300 with 25 homers per year in order to be a major asset.
So, what teams might be in the market for a rather costly DH this winter?
Baltimore: A strong right-handed hitter to plop behind Chris Davis in the lineup would do the Orioles a lot of good.
Seattle: I tried to get behind a Butler-to-Seattle deal last year before the Mariners acquired Morales. Maybe it could happen this winter, but only if Morales rejects a qualifying offer and leaves in free agency. That’d be a dangerous gamble for him.
Texas: The Rangers gave Lance Berkman a whirl last winter, but it didn’t work out. They could still use a true DH, but a left-hander would be nice considering that Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre all swing righty.
New York: The Yankees have preferred to bargain hunt for DH options of late, and they may not be able to take on a pure one unless they decide to release Vernon Wells. Depending on how the outfield shakes out, it may be Alfonso Soriano’s spot.
Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay figures to add a part-time DH to replace Luke Scott, but they’ll be looking into the bargain bin.
Oakland: GM Billy Beane seems to be prizing versatility and flexibility with his lineup, and on the off chance he does look to add a big bat, it’d probably be a left-hander to hit between Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.
Minnesota: The Twins could certainly use the offense, but they’re not in any sort of position to give up talent for an $8 million DH.
Cleveland: The Indians intend to bring back free agent Jason Giambi, and they’ll probably continue giving Carlos Santana starts at DH with Yan Gomes behind the plate.
Los Angeles: Between Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, there’s no room for a full-time DH in Anaheim.
Houston: There’s better way for the Astros to spend if they’re going to loosen the purse strings.
That’s maybe three legitimate suitors for Butler in Baltimore, Seattle and Texas. NL teams aren’t really any sort of an option; Butler can play first base when necessary, but no team is going to want him as a full-timer there. Given the limited market, I’m not sure it makes much sense for the Royals to move him. They still have a whole lot of use for his right-handed bat for one thing. If they could get a top prospect in return, it might be worth going in a different direction. But that return probably isn’t out there.
Morales faces the same sort of problem if he turns down the Mariners’ $13.5 million-$14 million qualifying offer. No, a team won’t have to trade for him, but it will have to forfeit a pick to sign him, which could be just as bad. Perhaps a couple of NL teams will consider Morales as a first baseman — he’s more viable there than Butler is — but I’m really skeptical he’ll get a three- or four-year deal.