So, what’s the market for Billy Butler anyway?

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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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.