As the baseball winter meetings heat up, all Mariner fans know that the team needs offense. For the past month, Billy Butler rumors have commonly been tossed around with the Mariners, and I personally would love to bring the 26 year old all-star to Seattle.
For the last few weeks, I have been working with Michael Engel from Kings of Kauffman, which is the blog covering the Kansas City Royals here at the Fansided network, to create a mock trade negotiation for Billy Butler. My goal was to find an estimation for Billy Butler’s asking price. Keep in mind that neither of us are general managers and also may not reflect the true intentions of the organizations we were representing in the mock negotiation. I will use italics to interject some editorial comments as the negotiating goes along. Some of you may cringe at some of the offers I make or pass up, but I hope that this still proves to be informative.
Michael Engel: So you have interest in Butler. We’d need MLB-ready pitching, hopefully with a good amount of team control left. That’s the top offseason priority.
Joel Condreay: Obviously, we aren’t parting with King Felix, but Jason Vargas or Hisashi Iwakuma are both solid middle of the rotation guys we could part with. Vargas has either 1 or 2 years left, and Iwakuma has 2 left, but both should be easy to extend. ( I expect Vargas’ numbers to suffer significantly in the upcoming year due to the fences coming in, so I am not hesitant to move him while he still has a bit of value.)
Michael Engel: Vargas is an alright option, but we wouldn’t like to see him be the centerpiece of our return for Butler. He’d be perhaps a second or third piece in a potential deal though, I think.
Butler fits in very nicely in our lineup as a young player that also has a strong track record. Starting in 2009, he’s played in all but 11 games and has averaged better than 60 extra base hits. He’s shown a combination of high average and solid power and he’s not even 27 yet. We’d really like to see another arm involved and maybe an upside prospect to dream on as well if we’re sending the centerpiece of our offense. We’d prefer Taijuan Walker, but also (of course) like Danny Hultzen and James Paxton.
Walker at Spring Training in 2012. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Condreay: It would take a lot to get us to let go of Hultzen or Walker, but Paxton is do-able. I think a proven 200 inning pitcher and the 6th ranked left handed pitching prospect in baseball (according to MLB.com) would be a pretty good duel-centerpiece. Keep in mind though, that Butler has no value outside of his bat so it’d be nice to get a positional prospect in return. I’m thinking Jorge Bonifacio or Brian Fletcher.
Michael Engel: I can’t snowball you and try to sell Butler as a viable defensive first baseman, but even though all of his value is tied up in his bat – that’s one valuable bat. You just moved the fences in, right? He’s just going to put up bigger homer numbers if you were to get him in the lineup.
We’re after a pitcher we can put on the mound on Opening Day, and while we like Vargas, he’s more of a middle of the rotation guy in our eyes. Now we can get by with that if we’re also seeing an advanced minor league arm coming back – frankly Paxton and Vargas isn’t quite there for us for Butler alone. We’ve got other teams contacting us who might fit our need better, so that’s why we have to ask for at least Hultzen. (One of the main contenders at the time was the Rays, but with the signing of James Loney, they are probably no longer pursuing Butler.) We’re higher on Walker, though. Blake Beavan intrigues us as a guy to include at the back end of a potential deal, if you’re interested in moving him.
Out of curiosity though, where would the asking price come for Nick Franklin?
Joel Condreay: I’m going to work quite hard to keep Hultzen or Walker off the table for now. It’s easy to look at Paxton in the context of the other two guys and feel discontent, but he really is a great pitcher.
We could throw in Beavan, but now we are losing another rotation piece, so we would need an MLB ready pitcher back. I would like Mendoza. He doesn’t have much of a future, but he can be average enough for us for a year or two until other guys can take over. (I think that a rotation of Felix, Iwakuma, Mendoza, Ramirez, and Noesi / cheap free agent signing, while not ideal, would be tolerable should we have Butler and a decent free agent bat in our lineup.)
Giving up Franklin would take alot, but it’s not impossible. If you are interested in a middle infielder, I would recommend you look at Brad Miller. Miller actually put up better numbers in AA last year than Franklin did. He doesn’t have the upside of Franklin, but he is much less of a risk.
Michael Engel: For Butler, we really can’t do it without Hultzen at least involved. There’s still upside, but the risk is so great that Paxton doesn’t reach his potential that it’s just too steep a price to pay.
Our position is that we’re under no duress to trade Butler, so the deal has to be just right for our needs. If this was his final option season, then perhaps we’d be more open to a deal like this, but he’s got three years at better than projected market value and is our most consistent hitter. For a simple deal involving Butler, we have to have Hultzen or Walker involved.
(I know that many of you would not mind giving up Walker or Hultzen for Butler, but I have a pretty simple reason for not wanting to do so. Essentially, I think that it would be easier to find another designated hitter than can hit 30 homeruns than it would be to find another 20 year old prospect with the kind of stuff that Walker has or another lefty with the a floor as low as Hultzen has.)
Moving on, though, as I don’t think we’re miles apart.
Joel Condreay: I think that I care more about Butler coming to Seattle than most Mariner fans do. However, I simply can’t think of a way to justify giving up the #4 and #29 Prospects along with two MLB level starters for only a good DH, a journeyman, and a minor league pitcher that may never pitch again.
I’ll concede Walker (That was a painful decision), but not Franklin at the same time unless you pitch in much more.
Michael Engel: We want to make as clean a deal as we can. Our ideal move would be to deal a hitter as close to straight up for a pitcher as we can get, or, if the pitcher is right, to toss in something else. That would have to be a pitcher who would unseat Jeremy Guthrie as the opening day starter. Otherwise, if we’re trading for talent that isn’t at the big league level yet, we have to hold out for projectable arms who are close – which Hultzen, Walker and Paxton are, and we’re more sold on Hultzen and Walker. Honestly, I’m not sure where we’re able to find a fit here.
Joel Condreay: Well, I actually think that Vargas is a better starter than Guthrie and his 5.10 FIP, but it does appear that we are a ways away from an agreement.
Let me throw this much simpler deal out there: Vargas, Paxton, and Franklin for Butler and Orlando Calixte. (My basic thought process for this proposal was that some combination of Brendan Ryan, Brad Miller, Carlos Truinfel, and Orlando Calixte would mostly remedy the loss of Franklin. Since losing Vargas does not particularly concern me, the trade became Paxton for Butler in my mind.)
Michael Engel: I don’t think Vargas is the impact guy we need to have at the top of our rotation. Not for Billy Butler at least. There could be some groups of prospects we could exchange, but at this stage, we’ve got to explore other options that will allow us to bring in a first division starter for our rotation. We can’t wait on potential anymore. (If the Royals absolutely need a top of the rotation starter, Seattle won’t be able to get Butler, since Felix will be off the table.)
Joel Condreay: Fair enough.
It looks like our negotiations won’t go much farther, but I will throw one last deal on the table: Vargas, Paxton, and Dustin Ackley and some lower minor league arm for Butler, Bonifacio, and John Lamb.
Michael Engel: I can’t find a deal that satisfies me or what I think the Royals would do.
Well that was pretty anticlimactic, wasn’t it? It is fitting that we were unable to reach an agreement, because most recent reports have seemed to indicate that teams are hesitant to match what the Royals are asking for their 26 year old designated hitter.
Now that you have seen an approximate price for Butler, I would love to know if you would have accepted the deals the Engel proposed in our mock negotiation.
Please leave your thoughts, observations, and questions in the comment section below as well.