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Why Billy Butler Makes Perfect Sense To The Orioles

Steve Shoup

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.



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