Billy Butler is having the worst season of his career. That's a hard truth and a tough pill to swallow given the eternal love that Royals fans have for him. You may think he's an overweight, double play inducing, no fielding, slow running bat only player. You'd be mostly right, but that hasn't stopped him from being one of the best hitters in not only Royals history but in baseball the past few years.
From 2009 to today, here are the list of batters with more hits than Billy Butler:
That's it. Two players.
Here's the list of batters in that same time span with more doubles than Billy Butler:
Butler has been one of the best hitters in baseball. He hits for average, doesn't strike out at a high rate, walks at a decent clip, and hits for moderate power (even if it's just doubles). Unfortunately for both Billy and the Royals he's been terrible this year. I don't like to use that word a lot, but he has been. His strikeouts are up, his walks are down, his OBP is down, he's hit for no power, he's chasing outside pitches, he's swinging at more pitches, and he has a wRC+ of 96. That's not a bad wRC+ for a shortstop or a middle infielder, but Butler is the designated hitter and first baseman. The average designated hitter wRC+ this year is 101. The average for first baseman is 110.
That 96 is his wRC+ for the year. His wRC+ for designated hitter appearances only is 78. The next highest is David Ortiz. He's at 122. When he plays at 1B he has a 154 wRC+. The best in the major leagues (minimum 60 plate appearances).
Billy Butler is having the worst season of his career and it couldn't have come at a worse time for him or perhaps best time for the Royals.
The Royals have a $12,500,000 club option for Butler this winter with a $1,000,000 buyout.
I'm a finance guy and I sometimes try to equate things to finance related ideas.
Contract options are identical to equity options. From a club point of view, a club option is like buying a call option, it gives the buyer (the club) the right to call/buy the stock (player) but not the obligation. A player option is like writing a put option, it gives the buyer (the player in this case) the right to assign the stock (player) to you. A mutual option is...well I don't know what that would be like. Any equity swap? Index option? Regardless, I think I got the analogy right.
Like contract options, equity options carry an intrinsic or underlying value. Let's say XYZ company is trading at $10.00 per share and you buy a call option (the right but not the obligation to buy the shares) on XYZ with a strike price (salary) of $12.50. Suddenly the stock price of XYZ rises to $15 per share. You're sitting there "in the money." You have the ability to buy XYZ at $12.50 per share when it's trading at $15 per share on the open market. Not factoring in the premium (the fee you paid the writer of the option to purchase the option), you've made $2.50 in profit. (Side note: option contracts come in 100 shares per contract so you really made $250).
On the other hand, if the per share value of XYZ dropped to $10 per share you would just let the option expire worthless and walk away (you'd lose money because you paid the premium I spoke about earlier).
Billy Butler is XYZ, his $12,500,000 2015 salary is the strike price, and his $1M buyout is the premium.
Here is the history of primary designated hitters age 28 seasons:
|2004||David Ortiz||Red Sox||150||669||41||147||4.2|
|2002||Shannon Stewart||Blue Jays||141||641||10||116||3.3|
|1979||Lamar Johnson||White Sox||133||526||12||120||2.1|
|1987||Harold Baines||White Sox||132||554||20||119||1.7|
|1997||Reggie Jefferson||Red Sox||136||524||13||112||1.1|
|2011||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||134||530||17||113||1.1|
|2000||Brian Daubach||Red Sox||142||549||21||88||0.6|
That's not a long list for something that dates back 40+ years.
Here's how those guys did in their age 29 season:
|2005||David Ortiz||Red Sox||159||713||47||157||5.1|
|2012||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||151||644||42||150||4|
|2003||Shannon Stewart||- - -||136||644||13||115||3|
|2001||Brian Daubach||Red Sox||122||472||22||119||2|
|1980||Lamar Johnson||White Sox||147||596||13||102||1.4|
|1988||Harold Baines||White Sox||158||674||13||109||1.3|
|1998||Reggie Jefferson||Red Sox||62||219||8||128||0.9|
Year to year changes of those guys:
All but seven had worse seasons than the previous years and seven were at least one win worse.
One other problem with Butler's option is that it's not cheap. It's a $12,500,000 salary which would be the most the Royals have ever paid Butler in a season and is a nearly 50% increase year over year. If Butler were a productive DH like say Victor Martinez (who's making $12.5M), Nelson Cruz (who's making $8M), or Chris Carter (making $500,000) then Butler would have a shot at being worth $12.5M. That would put him roughly at a two win player. Butler has only been a two win player twice in his career (2010 and 2012) and only once has he been worth at least $12.5M (2012). So far this year Butler has been worth negative $2M. It's hard to see Butler being worth $12.5M next year or anything close to that.
Now there are a lot of things that factor into the intrinsic value of an equity option (time until expiration, underlying stock volatility etc...), but it seems like at this point it's best for the Royals to eat the premium, walk away being "out of the money", and buy the
stock player at market price. A market price that is considerably lower.