The Kansas City Royals announced a contract extension with slugging first baseman Billy Butler early Saturday morning. The 4 year, $30 million dollar deal buys out all of Butler’s arbitration years and includes a team option which saves — for one year — the budget-conscious Royals from bidding on the open market.
Most people view the deal as fair for both sides. The $7.5 million dollar average annual value is a good prize for the arbitration years of a strong hitter without much defensive value. The move, in the words of Hardball Talk’s DJ Short, offers the Royals great flexibility in the future as the money is evenly distributed over the life of the contract. Some might say giving Dayton Moore more rope isn’t the same as flexibility, but the consensus is a good bit of business for the Royals.
One person who may view the deal with a little bit of side eye is the Blue Jays own Adam Lind. Lind signed an option-heavy deal just under one year ago, netting himself 4 years and $18.5 million bucks guaranteed. Lind was not arbitration eligible at the time of his contract though he was 2 years older than Billy Butler.
Lind and Butler are quite similar players – accomplished stickmen without a real position. While Adam Lind posted a monster 2009 season before promptly going into the tank in 2010, Butler improved on his strong 2009 with another excellent 2010. His .388 on base percentage ranks 7th in the American League, his .372 wOBA puts him firmly in the middle between Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira.
Adam Lind cannot make such claims. While Butler shows better and better patience at the plate, increasing his walk rate by 2% a year (from 6% to 8% to 10.2% in 2010) at the expense of his slugging; Adam Lind seems to have abandoned getting on base all together while piling up the strikeouts.
The Jays drafted Adam Lind as a polished college hitter and he came exactly as advertised, streaking to the big leagues with great haste. A few stumbles before setting into the every day lineup and doing his thing.
His thing, we all thought, was hitting doubles with the odd home run thrown in for good measure. His sweet swing suggested power to all fields but I don’t think anyone expected him to develop into a Power Hitter. But a power hitter he became, clocking 39 home runs with an ISO of .257 – a huge increase over his minor league levels.
While Lind failed to get on base and hit for real power in 2010, Billy Butler traded one for the other. Butler managed a mere 21 home runs but his newfound patience allows him to contribute in other ways (in theory. Allowing Jeff Francoeur to hit with runners on actually rates as counter-productive.) Though Butler raced through the minor leagues after being drafted out of high school, he quickly became known as a Professional Hitter. One look at Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores shows the kind of hitter Butler already is. Most similar player through age 24? John Olerud. Johnny O!
Nobody faults Blue Jays fans for harbouring similar expectations of Adam Lind, especially during his ascent to the show. The sweet, left-handed swing. The rail-thin frame. The apparent need for a helmet at all times. Adam Lind was the second coming of Olerud! After his rocky 2010, Lind looks a lot more like the second coming of Brad Fullmer.
If Billy Butler can mimic the productive career of John Olerud, the Royals are laughing. Bad body and bad defense aside, guys that stroke doubles and take walks tend to have long, functional careers. Unless Adam Lind can adjust his approach and remember to use all fields as well as avoid making outs from time to time, his career stands to be quite the opposite: it’ll be a short one.