KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Billy Butler woke up Friday morning and put on a royal blue shirt, just like he did for eight seasons while helping to turn around a moribund Kansas City Royals franchise.
One problem: He plays for the Oakland Athletics now.
Unable to work out a new deal with the Royals, who declined his pricey option for this season, Butler found a willing suitor in Oakland. He signed a $30 million, three-year deal with the A’s, not long after helping Kansas City eliminate them in the American League playoffs.
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It all made for an awkward scene at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night. While three of his former teammates were awarded their Gold Gloves, Butler was receiving his AL championship ring in a ceremony before the start of a three-game series.
”It’s one of those things, the business side of it,” Butler said. ”As much as I wanted to stay, it just didn’t work out. But I want to see them successful. This city had a lot of tough years before last year.”
Butler went through most of them. He was selected by Kansas City in the first round of the 2004 draft and made his big league debut as a 21-year-old three years later. He made his only All-Star team in 2012, when the game was played at Kauffman Stadium. Along the way, he became one of the most popular players in franchise history, in part due to his vast charitable work in the community.
He hit .271 with nine homers and 66 RBIs last year, putting Royals general manager Dayton Moore in a precarious position. The club had a $12.5 million option on Butler for this season, but his declining production prompted the Royals to decline it.
There was little movement on a new deal, and the Royals ultimately signed Kendrys Morales to take over the DH role. Butler quickly signed with the A’s, swapping out blue for green.
Well, swapping out MOST of his blue.
”It was definitely weird in spring training to see him in a different uniform,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said before Friday night’s game. ”We’ve all been invested in this for a long time, and Billy was one of the first to get things going here.”
There certainly were no hard feelings that things didn’t work out. Butler said he was happy to see the Royals win their first seven games, and Kansas City manager Ned Yost said he’s gone out of his way to keep track of how Butler has been doing in Oakland.
He was hitting .359 with a homer and six RBIs in his first 10 games.
”It’s going to be fun to give him his ring,” Yost said of the diamond-encrusted AL title ring the rest of Butler’s old teammates received on opening day. ”Billy was here for all of it, the bad times, the better times, the great times. It’s going to be special.”