The Oakland A’s have cut ties with veteran designated hitter Billy Butler, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Thus ends a strange and seemingly doomed relationship less than two years into a three-year, $30 million agreement.
As a result, the A’s will be forced to eat his remaining 2016 salary, plus the $10M owed to him in 2017.The contract was considered a huge risk from the beginning for many notable reasons. First and foremost, Butler’s career was already seemingly in decline at age 28. He entered free agency in the winter of 2014 coming off a .271/.323/.379 season with only nine home runs. In his five previous seasons, Butler hit 302/.372/.469 with an average of 20 home runs while serving as a key run producer for Kansas City.
It was also a surprise to see general manager Billy Beane commit that amount of money to a limited player. Butler has served almost exclusively as a designated hitter throughout his career, which limits his value and makes it essential he produces in the categories expected from him. That did not happen in Oakland, as he hit only .258/.325/.394 with 19 homers and 96 RBI over 236 games.
In addition to his on-field decline, Butler was involved in a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia last month that left him with a concussion. According to reports, the teammates engaged in a verbal dispute that turned physical after Butler inserted himself in a conversation between Valencia and an endorsement representative. The A’s fined both players for their roles, but Butler doesn’t believe that confrontation led to his release.
He’s probably right, as the writing appeared to be on the wall before that incident.
Now it will be interesting to see what type of interest Butler might garner on the open market. He wouldn’t be eligible to be on a postseason roster, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility he’d be signed to serve strictly as a pinch-hitter down the stretch. It’s also possible he’ll wait until the offseason to gauge value. Whatever the case, it’s safe to assume he’s received his final big money contract. [/restrict]