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Royals mailbag: Trading Billy Butler? Targeting Alex Rios or Carlos Quentin?

07/18/2014 8:59 AM

07/18/2014 2:50 PM

The second half of the season starts tonight at Fenway Park. But first, let’s wrap up a few issues from the start of the year and answer questions.

It’s the weekly mailbag. Let’s do this.

I hope it’s Blair. Anyone But Sam. #ABS

I received many, many questions like this, all of them in the same vein, but this is the one I choose. So it goes.

Where to start?

I guess we can back up a few months.

The Royals listened to offers on Butler this past winter. At the time, even coming off a down season in 2013, the organization still viewed him as a productive cleanup hitter. He looked primed for positive regression to his previous success. So, as one club official framed it: "If we’re giving up Billy Butler, we need to get back a player who can bat fourth in our lineup."

The team did consider dealing him, though. If they had signed Carlos Beltran, they would have almost been forced to, as Beltran can’t play the field every day. In the end, Beltran opted for a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees, and the Royals dodged a bullet.

Still, at this point, Butler has been a disaster. You don’t need his statistics recited. But you understand he no longer produces like a cleanup hitter. If you want to be clinical about this: He is a DH without a position, who is not fulfilling his sole responsibility. It is hard to imagine the club picking up his $12.5 million option for 2015, so they risk receiving nothing for him once he departs as a free agent.

Thus, it makes sense for the Royals to listen to offers once more. Their asking price has surely dropped. As your old pal Bob Dutton has mentioned many times, Seattle has been interested in Butler for years. They may have an opportunity now to buy low on him.

The name most commonly linked to Butler is Nick Franklin. This made some sense before the Royals signed Omar Infante. Now, less so. Franklin profiles as a more athletic version of Christian Colon with more power. The layman’s comp on him is "Seattle’s Johnny Giavotella."

Do I expect him to be dealt? It’s hard to put a percentage on it. There is a significant chance he is, but it’s not the most likely scenario. The Royals would still need to make corresponding maneuvers to find someone for those DH at-bats. Raul Ibanez isn’t the answer. Jonny Gomes is appealing — and he’s one name certainly on the team’s radar, I’m told, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote recently — but he only succeeds against lefties.

This isn’t a scenario where a club needs to trade a player. They can hope Butler gets hot during the second half, and his production helps bolster their lineup. But if they feel compelled by an offer that improves the club, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them pull the trigger.

All of them.

The best option for the Royals might be Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd, but there are financial deterrents to a deal. Byrd told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia the Royals are one of four teams on his no-trade list. In order for Byrd to drop that blocker, the word is those teams (KC, Seattle, Toronto and Tampa Bay) would likely have to guarantee his $8 million vesting option for 2016.

Thus, the Royals may have to lock into two more years and $16 more million for an outfielder who turns 37 next month, was suspended a couple years back after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs and recently played in the Mexican Pacific League.

Rios has less guaranteed money, so he may be more intriguing. The Rangers hold a $13.5 million team option for 2015, with a $1 million buyout. That is a sizable price for a .305/.333/.440 hitter in a bandbox like Globe Life Park in Arlington. Even so, despite the team’s swoon this summer, Texas possesses the weapons to recover for 2015, and will likely seek a decent sum for Rios.

"They want to win next year, too," one American League official said.

You are also gambling on a player with balky knees who played 86 games in 2012, 82 games in 2013, is owed $8 million for 2014 and has a potential $3 million buyout of an option for 2015.

Kenny Rogers should write a song about you, my friend.

Quentin can hit, for sure, but he is so injury-prone and expensive, I would be surprised if the Royals make a move for him.

Considering he is playing for Class AAA Omaha right now, I doubt it.

The optimist’s take: His ability in center field earns raves. Christian Binford, his former teammate at Class A Wilmington, gushed about Starling aiding him with his fleetness of foot and range this season. Plus, as Dayton Moore said at the outset of the season, the Royals want to give Starling about two full seasons of at-bats, this year and next, before determining his potential readiness for the majors.

The pessimist’s take: His slash-line through 89 games was .207/.290/.325. "His swing gives me nightmares," one American League scout said.

There are a few ways to go with this, and all of them involve Danny Duffy playing the bongos.

Lorenzo Cain is an avid singer, and also a terrible one. If he fronted the band, you’d hear comps to Biz Markie and Corn Mo. Alex Gordon would play bass. I am not sure who would play guitar. I bet Jeremy Guthrie has in the past, but he would probably play some of that overly classical stuff like William Tyler.

I am not sure this band would be very good.

Text from my mother: "You should go to that softball game. You might make some friends!"

I doubt I’ll go.

"Sowing Season." No question.

The match didn’t headline their own show, but you can’t top Steve Austin and Bret Hart’s submission match at Wrestlemania 13. That would be my choice.

If this is 100-percent fantasy booking, then I would be interested in:

1. Bret Hart vs. Kurt Angle (pre-TNA).

2. Bret Hart vs. Brock Lesnar.

3. Bret Hart vs. Daniel Bryan.

4. Bret Hart vs. Taz (ECW era).

5. Bret Hart vs. CM Punk (heel version with a shaved head).

Perhaps you are sensing a pattern. None of these matches would sell tickets, but Hart just has the best work rate, and that’s all I care about.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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