Royals, Billy Butler agree to four-year, $30 million extension

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According to Dick Kaegal of MLB.com, the Royals and Billy Butler have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a four-year, $30 million extension.

Butler, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, filed for $4.3 million and was offered $3.4 million from the Royals when arbitration figures were exchanged earlier this week. The new contract will cover all three of his arbitration seasons and his first year of free agency.

Butler has a .299/.359/.457 batting line over his first four seasons in the big leagues. Though his power numbers dipped a bit last season, he established career-highs with a .318 batting average, .388 on-base percentage, an .857 OPS and 189 hits. Butler doesn’t turn 25 years old until April and should be an important part of a promising rebuilding process in Kansas City.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.