Lowell Cohn: A's sign Billy Butler, so that's all they need, right?
The Oakland A’s are a great offseason team. One of the best.
No club wins a pennant or a world championship in the offseason like the A’s.
The A’s, under the stewardship of Billy Beane, just pulled off another major offseason coup. They signed former Royals DH Billy Butler to a three-year contract. People are falling all over themselves praising Beane because he did it again, won the American League title before November came to a close. This is so special.
I would like to add a significant note. The A’s also are a great pre-September baseball club. Take last season. They were 28 games over .500 in early August. Their phenomenal record was virtually unheard of and they were outscoring opponents by an obscene margin and many experts were calling them a great team and everyone was praising their platoon system of batting. Believe me, the A’s don’t get enough credit for what they do before September year in and year out.
I would like to add something else. This signing of Butler — more on his stats in a moment — is Beane’s best offseason signing since he nabbed closer Jim Johnson before last season. Johnson had 50 saves for Baltimore the year before Beane got him. And Johnson lasted almost to August before the A’s released him.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare the Butler and Johnson signings because, obviously, Johnson came to the A’s with more recent success than Butler. If I’m being unfair to Butler, forgive me.
Here’s the big point. A’s fans should no longer mourn the loss of Yoenis Cespedes because now they have Butler, a man who slugged, slammed, smashed nine home runs last season in 151 games. It’s an astonishing accomplishment. I mean, sure, Beane ruined the A’s chances last season when he traded Cespedes for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, but now he’s back on track with Butler who, in addition to his nine big dingers last season had 15 the year before. It’s hard to find sluggers like that.
In a conference call, Beane explained why he made this epic Butler deal. “He’s a right-handed, middle-of-the-lineup guy, which is really hard to come by these days. His age (28), certainly his body of work over the last few years. He stayed very healthy his whole career. Bats are rare, not the easiest thing to come by these days.”
Ain’t that the truth?
Beane acknowledged Butler’s nine big flies last season was a bit underwhelming. Beane admitted he didn’t know why Butler’s power numbers fell off. He referenced Butler’s 2012 season when he hit 29 home runs with 107 RBIs.
In fairness, 2012 wasn’t that long ago.
Beane kept talking about Butler’s “body of work” — like Butler was a novelist or composer — to deflect attention from recent history. Beane admitted Butler’s two so-so years in a row drove down his value so the impoverished A’s could afford him. Now, we understand the logic of this move. It was good Butler had only 66 RBIs last season and pretty much sucked. That made him available to Oakland.
To put middle-of-the-lineup Butler’s stats in context, compare him to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, that known power hitter. True, Crawford mostly batted eighth, just before the pitcher, which means he’s the worst hitter among the regulars. But a comparison with Butler seems warranted. Last season, Crawford hit 10 home runs, one more than Butler. Crawford’s slugging percentage was .389. Butler’s was .379.