Why Billy Butler Makes Perfect Sense To The Orioles

December 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

After reading MLBTR's discussion last night regarding Billy Butler, I came away thinking that he would be a great fit for the Baltimore Orioles (though lets be honest he'd be a great fit for just about every team in baseball). With his impressive hit tool, he would be a perfect compliment to the more free swinging Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy, who were already acquired via trade this offseason. Butler would balance out the strikeouts and add an another bat*(editor's note: Originally I wrote that he was a LH hitter, sorry for the mistake) to a fairly potent, yet underrated lineup. While the Orioles could end up just signing either Adam LaRoche or Derek Lee, Butler could be the impact hitter they have chased this off season. The Orioles don't have a long term answer at 1B, and although Butler isn't a great defender, he is a better option than anything the Orioles have.

Now two problems with any Oriole trade attempt would be their lack of top end talent in their farm system and their unwillingness to trade any of their top end pitchers. That 2nd issue might not be too much of a problem for the Royals since they are stocked deep with (everything) front-end pitching prospects. The Orioles could provide an interesting package of both major league and minor league positional players. There might not be any true 'stars' in the mix, but there should be enough young, upside, controllable talent to intrigue the Royals. Here is a 5 player package that might land Butler:

Felix Pie: Pie is a streaky player and by no means a star, but he is still a young controllable outfielder who can play any OF spot. He doesn't offer much power, but he does have a line-drive stroke that could translate into 10-15 HR's and a high number of doubles. He can offer good insurance for CF if newly acquired Lorenzo Cain fails or shows he's not ready. He can also play LF in case the Royals move Alex Gordon, or maybe they can shift him over to RF (or even DH with Butler's departure). Pie has 3 years of team control remaining, but shouldn't cost too much in arbitration. He will help bridge the gap until the Royals top prospect depth is ready.

Josh Bell: Bell was once considered the Orioles third baseman of the future, but with the Mark Reynolds trade he is now more expendable. His first taste of the majors didn't go quite as planned, but he still has a bright major league future. He won't hit for a high average, but he possesses big time power, and should hit for 30+ home runs down the road. Although the Royals have uber-prospect Mike Moustakas almost ready at the hot corner, it wouldn't be a bad idea to invest in Bell as well. Neither is considered great defensively, so whichever is worse can move to DH and still be a big time bat in the Royals lineup. Bell still has 6 years of team control remaining, and could give Kansas City at least one bat in their lineup while they wait for their top prospects to arrive.

Xavier Avery: If there is one thing the Royals truly lack in their system it is center field depth. While Pie and Lorenzo Cain would help fill that void, Avery could very well be the real longterm answer in center. Avery is still raw as a player, but his tools and upside make him a very good prospect. He is still two full years away, but that works out well for Kansas City since it gives them time to evaluate Cain for their long term answer in CF. If Cain works out, then having a young talented CF prospect who is blocked, is far from the worst thing to have when trying to make a trade.

Mycal Givens: Givens is a very promising young infield prospect in an Orioles system filled with young infield prospects. Givens projects as either a SS or 2B with good offensive and defensive skills. He is the type of guy who could develop into a quality number 2 hitter in the big leagues. He will need 3-4 years to develop, but the upside and potential are there. Being that far away from the majors actually could be a plus for the Royals as it will give them time to evaluate their upper middle infield prospects. Also, with so many of their top guys ready in the next year or two, Givens can help restock their lower minors depth and extend the Royals bright future. The last thing Kansas City wants is to have all their prospects graduate to the majors, with no minor league depth behind them. Givens will help give the Royals options for the future and if they are patient he should reach his potential.

Caleb Joseph: To call 2010 a down year for Joseph would be a gross understatement as he was awful in his first year of AA. Prior to that year Joesph projected as a future above average starting catcher, with good offensive skills and solid defensive potential. Joseph failed to display any of that last season when his average tanked and his defense was below average. Although he struggled mightily, Joseph is not without his prospect value and could be a nice find as a 5th piece of a trade. Joseph could be a good bounce back candidate, and in limited work in the AFL (41 AB's), he posted a line of .390/.438/.512. Those numbers are obviously inflated, but it does give some hope that Joseph could be back on track this season.

Analysis: Bell, Avery and Givens would give the Royals three high upside young players, who all have one flaw keeping them away from being a top prospect. At the same time Bell and Pie help bridge the gap for the Royals offensively this season as they wait for all their top prospects to arrive. In addition, they help give Kansas City options to potentially make another deal if Alex Gordon proves he can hit this season. Joesph, helps fill a depth need, and if he gets on track could be a solid starting catcher for the Royals in a couple of years. There isn't a Top 50 prospect (player) in the bunch, but my guess is Butler's lack of 30 HR power and limited defense will keep them from landing a really great prospect. It would be a significant return for the Royals, one that I'm sure Oriole fans will hate to see, but it makes sense for Baltimore. While the loss of all those players may sting, none are truly prohibitive and the Orioles would add a true impact bat.

  • http://www.givejonadollar.com givejonadollar

    I love his high OBP but the real question GM's have to be asking, is whether or not he will ever find his power?

    Otherwise, he projects better as a 3B or 2B as 1B is normally a power position.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ Give Jon.

      Even if he doesn't find true 30+ HR power I think Butler is immensely valuable. I'd like to see him in the 25 Hr range, but he gets on base so much and hits a number of doubles that it won't be a big issue if he doesn't hit more home runs. Unfortunately his defense severely limits him to 1B/DH.

  • Royal Fan

    Butler is Right handed.

  • Derek

    "Butler would balance out the strikeouts and add an additional lefty to a fairly potent, yet underrated lineup"

    Billy Butler is a right-handed batter.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ Royal Fan and Derek:

      My bad thanks for catching that. Don't know why I had Butler as a lefty in my head.

  • D

    Billy Butler is a righty not a lefty. But even so, he'd be a great addition and I wouldn't see a problem giving up any of those players with the exception of maybe Avery. But you've got to give something to get something.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ D

      Avery is a tough loss because I really see him blossoming in the coming years, but with Jones in CF the O's can just build around him. Maybe you could replace Avery with a lesser prospect, but I really doubt it. I think both Bell and Avery would be must haves for the Royals to make this deal.

  • Luke

    This is a non-issue – Butler is a right-handed stick and the Royals top prospects are are left-handed. He will be the DH and occasional 1st baseman when this finally turns around in KC.

    Royals need to come out and say Soria and Butler are untouchables…this gets old seeing other speculate on who they can raid from the Royals roster.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ Luke

      The thing is if I'm running the Royals within the next year and a half both of these guys should be traded. By the time the Royals are really ready to compete 201318, Butler will be in his last year and Soria in his 2nd to last year of team control, and will cost a combined $13-18 million (If Butler adds power that arb. number will skyrocket). Sure they can trade these guys then, but some of their value could be gone.

      I understand the concern about being to LH heavy, especially since Bell hits righties much better than lefties and might need to give up switch hitting. Even still the Royals will have Myers, Colon, Cain, Escobar all as righties so I think they will maintain a good balance.

  • Daniel

    Not a single player listed on this page would crack the Royals top 20 prospect list. The Orioles just don't have what it would take, no way around it.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ Daniel

      I understand that at the very least none of these guys fit into the the Royals Top 15 and potentially top 20, but that is a bit of a loaded answer. KC added three good prospects in the Brewers deal, yet two of them wouldn't crack the top 12 (maybe 15). And the Royals system is so good that their 8th and 9th guys would be top 4 prospects (and for some teams the top prospect) on over half the teams in baseball. Kansas City has a great combination of top prospects and quality depth. I don't think the O's guys are as bad as you think they are.

      Givens was ranked as a B- guy by Sickels which after adding the 3 brewers guys would put him no worse than 15 or 16. Avery was a C+ by Sickels and number 3 by BA (Givens was ranked lower by BA) so there is def. some prospect talent there. Depending on who ranks the system I think he would be somewhere in the 14-19 range (higher if done by the BA team lower end if done by Sickels). Also while Bell might not be a true prospect any longer he still has 6 years of team control, and was ranked as a B by Sickels last season. He didn't have the greatest year but I think the upside is still there and he'd be no worse than a B- type of guy.

      Now a guy like Joesph is a depth guy who might not make it, but I think there is a chance he will at least develop into a backup catcher type. He's never going to be a great catcher but he has some upside as evidenced by his AFL performance. In the end though he is a throw in piece to help balance out some of the uncertainty surrounding Bell/Avery/Givens. And the same can be said for Pie, who offers some relatively cheap value and protection if Cain struggles.

      This isn't an 'offer they can't refuse' type of deal, but there is a lot of potential and it helps deepen the Royals 3 biggest need areas up the middle. I don't think the Royals can expect a blockbuster type of deal considering the defense and lack of home runs. Now don't get me wrong Butler is a great player, but you aren't going to land top 50 prospects (worth noting that Bell was 37 in BA and I believe 62 in Law's 2010 top 100 prospects) for him.

  • Ethan

    I disagree with your reasoning in two ways.

    1. Even with Hosmer coming up, the Royals will need a DH and until Kila proves himself, Butler fills a need.

    2. The fact that the Royals have a significant number of cost controlled players getting ready to graduate makes Butler valuable as well. An extension of Butler while those players will be making the minimum is exactly the type of balance a budget controlled team needs to create. It could be done fairly reasonably as:
    A. Butler has the flaws you mention
    B. He has multiple years of arbitration remaining

    This would also be attractive to the Royals because the aforementioned reasons would allow them to extend him at a rate significantly below what he'd get on the open market.

    I'm a Braves fan, but regardless, to think the O's would get Butler in a deal that doesn't start with either Britton or Machado unrealistic at best. He's trended upward every year and there's no reason to think that won't continue.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ Ethan

      Yes they could look to extend Butler, but they have a number of 1B/DH types, and Butler has shown himself to be very good with the potential to be great, but not elite. If they get two-three quality prospects with some filler I think they would take it.

      I just don't think Butler is worth a Machado or Britton type of prospect. Sure maybe straight up the value is right, but those types of prospects (Top 25 guys) aren't traded too often and when they do get dealt it is usually for someone of a higher profile (and in particular an ace SP). The Royals didn't land any top 25 guys for Greinke I have a hard time believing they will for Butler. Yes he is cheaper and has an extra year of team control, but Greinke is a bonafide ace, Butler is a very good 1B (offensively). I'm guessing the Royals get good value, but not excellent value for him. I could be wrong maybe some team is desperate and they give up a top talent, but I just don't see it.

  • Ethan

    They have Butler, Kila Ka'aihue, and Eric Hosmers who qualify as "DH/1B types" and Ka'aihue is relatively unproven. Maybe you're seeing something I'm not, ( http://tinyurl.com/242789p ) but I don't see how Butler is expendable until Ka'aihue proves he's for real.

    As for Greinke, the circumstances were different. The Royals were restrained by his no-trade clause, the 13.5 MM per the receiving team had to take on, and the fact that they (in at least the GM's mind) had to trade him. They still got Escobar, who last year was a top 15 prospect http://tinyurl.com/yblema6 and two arms that would be in Milwaukee's top 5 prospects (and Odorizzi might be a top 100 guy as well). This doesn't even mention Cain (and while I'm not really sure what to make of him yet, I do believe there is some value there).

    Butler may not be Greinke, but he also doesn't come with the baggage I just mentioned, and probably most importantly, they have no need to trade him. Under those circumstances, why would they give him up for anything less than a premium?

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup

      @ Ethan

      I'd also add Clint Robinson to the mix, and they have a few extra outfielders (Lough, Maier, Dyson) that could end up hitting enough to warrant ab's. I know most aren't as high on Robinson, but I like him. Will he hit as much no, but he should provide good offense and between him and Ka'aihue they should handle the 1b/dh position with Hosmer. Remember the Royals also have Alex Gordon (though they could look to trade him as well) and if they were to do this deal either Moustakas or Josh Bell could move to LF (or DH), so Kansas City should be well covered there.

      As for the Greinke deal I understand what you are saying (though still thought the deal was just 'fair' compared to a 'win' or even a 'steal' for the Royals. Escobar yes was a top 15 guy, but you have to remember he really struggled last year. While he will rebound some, he will likely earn his keep with his glove (which is fine when they have all the bats the Royals have). One thing that does ding his value is the fact that he has now used up one year of eligibility. Compared to someone like Bell who still has the full 6 years of team control. I really do like Odorizzi, and he could sneak in the back end of the top 100, but I'm not as high on the other pitcher. As for Cain, I like him and think he is solid, but I doubt he will improve too much. He is another one who will survive on his defense. Remember he will be 25 this season so there isn't much more 'development' time. Avery will be just 21 this season a full 4 years behind Cain, meaning that even if he does take 2 more years to develop (which appears to be the conservative estimate), he will still be well ahead of Cain.

      All in all I really don't see how the Royals were negatively affected by Greinke's situation (accept maybe the no trade clause. $13.5 million a year is pricey, but not for a pitcher of Greinke's caliber. I don't think they 'had to trade him' by any standard. And even if they did so what? The Blue Jays had to trade Halladay the Jays ended up with 3 really good prospects (though Toronto kicked in $6 million).

      That all being said I could see them keeping Butler and moving Kila for a much lesser piece. But I really think I'd take Kila plus Bell, Givens and Avery (not to mention Pie and Joesph) over Butler plus whatever middle reliever/moderate prospect they get back for Kila. I know trading Butler is risky, but now is the time to do it and I believe this deal is actually a 'win' for the Royals.

  • djph

    I've been contemplating an Oriole trade for Butler for quite some time. I think that Pie would be a given in any circumstance as KC will need to recoup some MLB ready talent. However, I believe that many people here are underestimating the value that Avery and Givens hold to MacPhail and the Baltimore brass. Adam Jones may not be the long term solution at centerfield and they have a tendandcy to over-value their own talent. I can't see a situation in which they part with both of these players in a Billy Butler deal.

    Those who mentioned Machado and Britton as untouchables are correct. That won't happen. But a name that hasn't been mentioned who I feel may be available is Chris Tillman. Tillman is only 22 and has MLB experience the last two seasons. While he's struggeled in the majors so far (some consider his fastball too straight), he's excelled at every stop in the minors. Combine the last two years at AAA and Tillman is 19-13 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 in 218 IP. Including a no hitter and, I believe, two one hitters. Pretty elite AAA numbers for an age (21-22) that many top prospects are just starting their professional careers.

    While the O's farm system doesn't come close to KC's, they certainly have a deep reserve of young starting arms. You don't see them on baseball america and Keith Law's lists because most have already graduated to the majors. I.E. Matusz, Bergesen, Arietta. Add Zach Britton who should be up to the majors soon this coming season and I think that makes Tillman expendable for the O's to finally fill that void at first base.

    I would envision a deal of Pie, Tillman and some filler (Joseph or Bell or perhaps Ryan Adams/Tyler Henson, maybe even Robert Andino). Throw in a bullpen arm prospect if that's what it takes to finalize it.

    I think that's a deal both teams could live with. But again, I just don't see Avery or Givens being included in a 5 player package like you mentioned. Not that they really are too valuable, just that they're too valulable to MacPhail at this point.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup


      You raise some interesting points about how McPhail and company view Avery/Givens, but I'd still feel comfortable moving them despite their high upside. The questions about Jones are valid, but I still believe in him and think they should start to work out a long term deal (for some reason I see a big season for him). I realize CF depth would be thin, but it is a risk I'd be willing to take. As for Givens with Machado, Schoop, Narron and Rosa the O's should be able to find their SS of the future.

      Tillman is the one starter I considered the O's might move, but I really hope they don't. Not that he isn't worth a deal for Butler, but rather that they would be selling too low for him. If Tillman was at or near peak value this deal would be Tillman and Pie or Tillman and Joesph. Right now Tillman could replace Avery, and maybe swap Givens for Schoop, but it really wouldn't change the trade enough. I'm a big believer in Tillman and consider him a breakout guy this year. I think he will take a top spot in this rotation and really come into his own. If the O's somehow can make a Tillman swap without having to give up two of Bell, Schoop, Givens and Avery i'd say go for it (esp. if it was Tillman, Schoop and filler). Otherwise I'd be leery to delve too far into their pitching depth.

      • djph

        I also think that moving Tillman this offseason would be selling low. From what I hear he's made improvements with his four seamer and is getting in the best shape of his life with Matusz at the Athletes Performance Institute in California. However, I belive that the chance to get Butler is one that the O's should not take lightly. I prefer Butler to LaRoche and Lee by a mile. I'd be willing to part with Tillman for Butler at this point, given the O's starting pitching depth, if it meant only including Pie (who I like a lot) and some filler. (Bell, Joseph, Adams, Waring, Henson, Andino…etc). And yes I am at the point with Bell that I consider him filler. I wouldn't give up any of the young SS in that deal, needless to say Machado/Givens, or Shoop. I don't have much hope for Narron or Rosa, maybe they will be pleasant surprises, but I don't expect it.

        If the Royals were absolutely adament about including Avery, I would say the price should be Pie and Avery plus filler. Same goes with Givens. So I guess you could say that Avery, Givens and Tillman are interchangable, though I think everyone would agree that Tillman is by far the more developed prospect and holds the most upside. That's why I said in my original post that a deal of Pie, Tillman and not much else should get it done.

        There comes a point were you have to measure the odds of betting potential versus reality. I don't believe it's a good idea to give up 5 potentials when you could 2 realities. That's assuming the actual parties involved in presumed negotiations feel the same way about the players being discussed.

        I'd feel a lot more comfortable with the O's moving Tillman in a deal for Butler, if they extended Guthrie a few years. Then your starting rotation could be Matusz, Guthrie, Britton, Arietta, Bergesen for a few years. Of course that doesn't leave a lot of room for injuries in the next couple of years and Tillman would provide some depth, but I'd still make the trade considering what Butler would bring to the lineup.

        • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup


          I guess that is the difference for me as I still consider Bell a valuable piece and well above filler. If I was trading Tillman, I'd rather not move Bell. If that was the only way to get a deal done maybe I'd relent, but it is still a tough sell for me. If it was Pie, Tillman and filler (though not Bell) then yeah I'd be on board.

          I have some concern about Bergy as a longterm starter, but as long as they don't give up too much else I can get behind that Tillman deal. I do get what you are saying about reality and potential, I guess it would really come down to what the Royals are really looking to get back.

  • ecpo

    "Bell still has 6 years of team control remaining, and could give Kansas City at least one bat in their lineup while they wait for their top prospects to arrive."

    The Royals already have "one bat" in their lineup. His name is Billy Butler.

    "At the same time Bell and Pie help bridge the gap for the Royals offensively this season as they wait for all their top prospects to arrive."

    The Royals now have nine outfielders on their major league roster, three of whom are virtual clones of Pie. Pie would be redundant. As for Bell, he's pointless too, because Mike Moustakas will be taking over third base no later than June. In the meantime, Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit can suitably keep the spot warm.

    "…it makes sense for Baltimore."

    You know what? I imagine this will come as a shock to you, but trades actually have to make sense for both teams, and this makes zero sense for the Royals for the myriad reasons already brought up in the comments. And another news flash: Quantity does not substitute for quality. Offering five players for Butler in no way makes up for the lack of a a single top end talent in the package.

    • http://fanspeak.com/members/steveospeak/ Steve Shoup


      The problem is by the time all of Moustakas, Hosmer, and Meyers are ready to fully contribute Butler will no longer be in their lineup or in his last year, with less trade value. Bell would just be entering his arb. years meaning the Royals could have 4 bats together instead of losing their best player for nothing, or a minimal return.

      Bell is easily greater than Aviles and Betemit, and very well could allow Moustakas move to another position if he continues to be better defensively than Moustakas. They could look to either move one to the OF or DH.

      Royals do have a lot of outfielders, but it is possible that Pie could be the best among them. His numbers aren't stellar but the ceiling is there and it is higher than guys like Lough, Maier etc. I don't think he's a long term fix, but Kansas City has a habit of trying to rebuild players and then flipping them when their value is high. They did that multiple times last year and I could see them do it again.

      I'm sorry I just don't see how Butler is worth top 25-50 prospects. And in reality Bell is a pseudo top prospect, and Avery and Givens both have the potential to one day be top 100 guys as well. It really is equivalent value to say the Greinke deal, just further away from the majors. This way it keeps the Royals strong well into the future.