One of Billy Beane’s first big splashes this offseason was the signing of slugger Billy Butler, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Bringing in an established bat like Butler’s to the tune of a three-year, $30 million deal was a surprise to many, as the cash-strapped A’s rarely make financial decisions of that magnitude.
A few months later, the deal makes more sense contextually given the massive overhaul Beane gave his team after coming up short in the postseason yet again in 2014. Given the circumstances, a ‘fresh start’ is in order for not only the team but also for Butler individually.
“I’m looking forward to a clean start this season,” Butler said, “because coming up 90 feet short of [tying] a World Series, you’re looking forward to playing that first game and getting that last memory out of your mind and getting another season started.”
Butler and the A’s hope he’ll be able to continue posting slash lines consistent with his career average of .295/.359/.449, though a move to the spacious, pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum might be a factor in determining his offensive potency in 2015.
Butler, however, is fully aware of the expectations that go along with the type of contract handed to him by Oakland:
“I was brought in to be a middle-of-the-order bat and to be a force in the lineup — to drive in a lot of runs,” Butler said. “Extra-base hits are big for guys in the lineup. [While I’m not aiming for] any certain numbers … run production is a big part [of] me contributing to this team.”
And judging by some more comments, Butler seems to have a slight competitive ‘chip on his shoulder,’ the kind of thing that happens when you’re part of a club that literally comes up 90 feet short of tying Game 7 of the World Series:
“I’m out to prove that I’m a valuable piece [of] a championship team,” Butler said. “I’m a little sour the Giants beat me in the World Series. It’s the Bay Area, [so I want to] go get the [Bay Bridge Series] when we play them this year. So I’m excited for that.”
That kind of motivation should go a long way for Butler with his new team. It might also help that he’s hardly the main acquisition for the team: instead, he’s part of a new crop of talent including names like Ben Zobrist, Marcus Semien, Ike Davis, Brett Lawrie, Tyler Clippard and others.
Billy Butler was an undisputed team leader and fan favorite with Kansas City, partly because of his lengthy career there but also because of his disposition, production and personality.
Judging by his comments so far in spring training, he’ll fit right in with his new teammates — and his new role as the A’s team leader, if that’s how things develop.