Position players for the Kansas City Royals have a spring training report date of February 19. The current build of the Royals roster might not be intact when it's time to report to Surprise, Arizona though. Slugger Billy Butler could be headed toward a new destination as Kansas City looks to beef up its pitching without overpaying in free agency.
It seems like it has been eons since Butler began carrying a big stick for the Royals. Since first attaining a full season's worth of at bats, Butler has been nothing but a model of powerful consistency. He wards off injuries and has averaged 160 games played since 2009.
Despite his power numbers being down last year and playing half of his games in the pitcher-friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium, he has still averaged 20 home runs annually. During the same span, Butler has driven in an average of 92 runs batted in while tallying a cumulative batting average of .302.
Needless to say, Butler is one hell of a ball player.
And just think, Butler will not turn 28 years old until after the start of the season.
Despite seeing a dip in his total HR, RBI and AVG last season, Butler is still a formidable weapon at the plate. Opposing teams see this, too.
The Royals aren't necessarily souring on their designated hitter, though. They have more pressing needs and find it more efficient to move Butler to another club in order to advance their pitching situation.
According to MLB Depth Charts, the Royals have a projected rotation that consists of ace James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Bruce Chen and Danny Duffy. Elite prospect Yordano Ventura could be in the mix at some point in the summer as well.
On the flip side, nothing about leaning on Chen and Duffy makes the Royals ooze with confidence.
In 2011, the Royals and Butler agreed to a four-year, $30 million deal. With a significant option worth $12.5 million in 2015 (or a $1 million buyout), the Royals should be even more encouraged to move Butler.
He is set to earn a team-friendly $8 million this year, a figure which would be encouraging to any prospective club lacking legitimate power at first base or designated hitter.
Last season, Kansas City posted its first winning record since 2003. Since 1992, they have just three winning seasons. While the organization is clearly moving in the right direction, they also lack an adequate starting rotation to compete late into September with division rival Detroit.
Butler is the one piece the Royals could move to better round out their rotation. He comes with a friendly $8 million salary for 2014 and provides a great AVG to coincide with enough power to justify a deal. Finding the right match is what might derail Kansas City's hopes of improving their rotation, though.