OAKLAND — Billy Butler was supposed to meet his wife in Kansas City tonight, in advance of the Oakland Athletics upcoming three-game series with the Royals — his old club.“My wife’s actually at the Chiefs game, so she was waiting on my coming there,” Butler said.
That won’t be happening after the A’s released Butler before the finale against the Seattle Mariners, bringing an abrupt — if not entirely unexpected — end to his disappointing tenure with Oakland.
“I knew it was a possibility because I wasn’t playing and it’s been like that all year,” Butler said.
The veteran designated hitter doesn’t believe his August clubhouse altercation with Danny Valencia, which sent him to the concussion disabled list, was a factor in his release.
“I don’t think it played into it at all,” Butler said. “If that situation would have been the reason, it would have happened before now.”
Manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst also both said that the incident with Valencia didn’t impact the move.
Instead, Melvin said parting ways with Butler, who had just nine at bats in September, was all about clearing room — and at bats — for more young players.
“It was just time really,” Melvin said. “It’s uncomfortable for a guy like him to sit on the bench — his at bats were drying up. There’s a chance that we have a couple of more guys coming too would affect his at bats, as well.”
By releasing Butler, the A’s now have an open spot on the 40-man roster should the team want to promote a non-roster prospect like third baseman Matt Chapman or center fielder Jaycob Brugman.
The team is still responsible for the balance of Butler’s $11.7 million 2016 salary. He’s owed the same amount next year, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Forst couldn’t explain why Butler, who hit .258 with a .394 slugging percentage in his A’s career, had proven to be such a bust in green and gold.
“I wish I knew the answer to that question,” Forst said. “Obviously, he didn’t perform last year up to what we expected and coming into this year it was tough for him to ever get going”
—Sonny Gray threw 11 pitches on the Coliseum bullpen mound before the game against the Mariners. Melvin had yet to hear a report from the training staff when he delivered his pregame press conference.
The manager hedged when asked if he wanted to see Gray pitch again in the closing weeks of the season.
“It would be nice to get him a game,” Melvin said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the most important thing in the world. His health is the most important thing for us and making sure he is healthy, but I think all things considered, he’d like to get into a game for maybe an inning and maybe we’d like to see it too. But we’ll see how we get there.”