A’s in “serious talks” with free agent Billy Butler

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As first first reported by Cover Those Bases and then confirmed by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the A’s are in “serious talks” with free agent Billy Butler. Word is the two sides are “close” to an agreement.

There was a report last week that Butler had a three-year, $30 million offer on the table, and MLB.com’s Phil Rogers wrote that it was “widely believed” to be from the Orioles. But it appears as though the 28-year-old designated hitter is headed to Oakland.

Butler batted just .271/.323/.379 with nine home runs and 66 RBI in 151 games this past season for the Royals and Kansas City’s front office then declined a $12.5 million club option on him in early November. But he has been a very productive hitter in the past, managing a stellar .306/.371/.483 slash line between 2009-2012.

The Athletics badly need a jolt of offense for 2015 and Butler is a decent bounceback candidate.

Video: Starling Marte refuses to take first base after being hit by pitch

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was hit on the hand by a Jack Flaherty pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Rather than take first base, Marte — who came to the plate with a runner on first base — insisted to home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that the ball hit the knob of the bat, not his hand. Marte was allowed to continue his at-bat, though manager Clint Hurdle came out to discuss the ruling with Dreckman. Marte eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice. He then got caught attempting to steal second base and the Pirates scored zero runs in the inning.

According to Baseball Prospectus, a team that has runners on first and second with no outs is expected to score 1.55 runs. Having a runner on first base with one out yields 0.56 expected runs. Marte essentially cost his team a run by rejecting first base. Oops.