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Royals Sign Billy Butler Through 2014

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Let us all begin by using the phrase "lock up" a million times. Humming...Lock-up, lock-up, Billy Butler's locked-up... Let us all indulge in fifteen minutes of our collective fantasy that Billy Butler is literally CHAINED to the Royals. He's locked-up you see! He cannot even contemplate freedom. All he can do is scratch his story into the stone wall and try to become friends with the warden. He is not going anywhere! He's like a Catholic in Elizabethan England... his options are death or the Tower of London! Oh, we love our players so much. Just look at how we talk about these heroes!

The key terms of the deal are: $30 million, 2014, and 25-28. For $30 million, the Royals went ahead and paid for all of Butler's arbitration years, tacked on one extra year of team control in 2014, and locked-up Butler's age 25-28 seasons. If he's going to have a prime, it'll likely be as a Royal.

The yearly terms of the deal aren't known, but they are almost certainly something boring like 4/6/9/11 (Rany's prediction). A more front-loaded or even an evenly-spaced deal would probably be a little better for the Royals, given that they have money to spend now and that that would improve Butler's trade value down the line. Nevertheless, you simply don't see many front-loaded deals in baseball, and the Royals are as by-the-book as it gets.

Butler is a curious player, and it isn't obvious what his future will hold. He's been extremely precocious as a player, though it remains to be seen what that truly means. Essentially, there's a scenario in which he blossoms into a true monster at the plate, along with one where he remains a middle of the road 1B/DH type. It depends on if his ability to establish himself at a tender age means he's an elite talent, or simply a man ahead of schedule. Jeff's post from earlier this month is a good place to start for your Butler-ology. Given that the market for player salaries seems to be increasing again, this is a good to fair to break even deal for the Royals. Obviously, if Butler has a monster 2011, it will look like a great contract.

This is a solid, if unspectacular contract deal for the Royals. Remember, Butler was already a Royal through 2013 if the Royals wanted him. This deal gets them an extra year and avoids the hassle of having to renegotiate anew the next two off-seasons. As the Greinke experience should remind us, a "locked-up" player can become a "guy who you need to move before its too late" in ... ohh... a year or so. Greinke signed his lock-up contract, had one glorious season, and then the next year the trade rumors began.

Enjoy your chains, Billy. Enjoy your lonely cell in the castle dungeon. We have locked you up and mailed away the key to a friend in Tasmania who has promised not to mail it back for too long!