The Mariners currently lead the race for the second Wild Card spot with a 51-44 record, 2.5 games up on the Royals. They have come up in a lot of trade rumors lately, as they look to improve their chances with an upgrade on offense. Apparently, that search has included a certain lighting rod in Kansas City.
The Mariners have been interested in Butler for quite some time, as reported by our old pal Bob Dutton in June, and by Ken Rosenthal last winter. There was even a rumor that Dayton Moore and the Mariners discussed a deal of Billy Butler-for-Yuniesky Betancourt early in Dayton's tenure.
Billy Butler has struggled mightily in his worst season as a big leaguer, hitting .273/.325/.355 with a curiously low 3 HR this year. He has started to hit for average lately, hitting .318/.363/.422 since May 28, but the power has been conspicuously absent. Billy is owed about $4 million the remainder of the season, with a $12.5 million option next year (and a $1 million buyout) that will certainly get declined. The Royals would probably have to eat some money to move Butler, but trading him could free up money and allow for more roster flexibility. It could also worsen the Royals offense.
The Mariners are one of the few teams with a worse offense than the Royals. They average fewer runs per game, have a lower on-base percentage, and have a slugging percentage just one point higher than the Royals. As bad as Billy Butler has been this year, Mariners designated hitters have been worse, collectively hitting .197/.270/.297, by far the worst in the league. ZIPS still projects Billy to hit .283/.352/.416 the rest of the season, which would be a massive upgrade for the Mariners.
Would the Royals deal with a fellow Wild Card contender? Perhaps, if they felt they moving Butler could improve their current ballclub. But it is hard to see how. If they try to move Butler to pick up another player, what would prevent Seattle from simply going after that player? If they move Butler simply to free up that spot in the lineup to hit other players, does that improve the lineup or worsen it?
Its pretty clear Royals management has not been infatuated with Billy Butler for some time. A change of scenery is probably needed for both the Royals and Billy Butler. But does a mid-season trade make sense?