Billy Butler came so close to winning it all with Kansas City that it stings to be leaving his only professional team after such a special run, and with some unfinished business.
Then the A's came calling when his old club did not, and Butler is someone who prides himself in loyalty — in this case to A's general manager Billy Beane's persistence and interest in striking a quick deal.
The versatile Butler finalized a $30 million, three-year contract with the A's on Wednesday. He receives a $5 million signing bonus payable by Dec. 31, a $5 million salary next year and $10 million in each of the final two seasons.
“We gave them a chance,” Butler said of the Royals. “It didn't work out. It's unfortunate. I enjoyed every day of the last 10 years, 10 years is a long time, just in life. I enjoyed every minute of it. It dampens it a little bit for me that we got to the top of where we're at and now I'm gone. I'm glad I got to see it through this year. … It hurts a little bit that I'm not going to get to see the rest of that go through. I'm on to a different chapter, that's the way you have to look at it.”
“I've got nothing to be ashamed of. I'm really honored to have been a Royal.”
Always looking for a middle-of-the-lineup hitter with pop, Butler provides manager Bob Melvin another player who can contribute at multiple positions.
“We felt there were a number of teams out there looking for bats that might have had him somewhere on their depth charts, and once one or two guys came off the board, there was going to be more intensity in terms of the pursuit,” Beane said.
Butler helped the Royals reach the World Series last month after a 29-year playoff drought. In the postseason opener, they rallied late to eliminate Oakland 9-8 in the AL wild-card game. Butler contributed two hits and two RBIs in the 12-inning game.
After losing to the Giants in a seven-game World Series, the Royals declined their $12.5 million option on Butler for next season. The 2012 All-Star received a $1 million buyout and became a free agent for the first time in his eight-year major league career.
“Finding right-handed power in the middle of the lineup at this stage is really difficult,” Beane said. “It's not very often you get free agents that are in the prime of their career and still have some upside to them.”
A steady and productive hitter for most of his career, Butler is coming off a down season. He batted .271 with nine home runs and 66 RBIs in 151 games this year, 108 of those as a DH.
Before that, he played at least 158 games in each of the five previous years, including all 162 in 2013.