Royals likely to decline Billy Butler’s option, but will he re-sign for less?

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It’s not exactly a hot-button topic like whether or not the Giants will re-sign third baseman Pablo Sandoval, but the Royals face a similar decision on designated hitter Billy Butler.

Once upon a time Butler looked likely a long-term building block for the Royals, but now at age 28 his performance has slipped and the team seems likely to decline his $12.5 million option for 2015.

Butler is the longest-tenured Royal at eight seasons and was originally drafted by Kansas City in 2004, but he’s hit just .280 with a .396 slugging percentage and .746 OPS in 313 games since 2013 and for a player with zero defensive or baserunning value that’s simply not worth $12.5 million.

However, last night Butler made it clear that he wants to stay with the Royals no matter what happens regarding his 2015 option:

Even if they decline it, you can still talk. Nothing’s been said. I haven’t been told anything, nor should I. We were focused on the World Series. I bleed Royal blue, and I’m a proven major league player. If it’s not here, it’s somewhere else, but I’d rather it just be here. It’s just the way it is. We’re small market and business is business, but I feel like it’s a little bit more than that here.

Parting ways with Butler would give the Royals a chance to add a bigger power threat to the middle of the lineup. He’s topped 20 homers just once in the past five seasons and has a .449 career slugging percentage while frequently being among the league leaders in grounding into double plays. Of course, breaking up after a decade together can be tough and as recently as 2012 he hit .313 with 29 homers and an .882 OPS.

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.