Losing Butler would mean moving one of Yost’s favorites

As Billy Butler trade rumors circulated this week during baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, I couldn’t help but recall a quote from Royals manager Ned Yost.

Butler had just busted from a slump with a five-hit, five-RBI game at Anaheim in May, and afterwards Yost told reporters, “Billy’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen.

“I’ve seen a lot of really good hitters got into little slumps, and Billy’s slumps are usually oh for nine or oh for 10. But you also know that any day he’s capable of breaking out and really carrying the team for a long period of time.”

High praise, and it wasn’t the first time Yost had heaped it on Butler.

That doesn’t mean Butler hasn’t been the talk of trade discussions, but having heard the belief in Butler expressed by Yost and the Royals over the years, there would have to be a mighty return here. One rumor making the rounds was trading Butler and prospects for Toronto slugger Jose Bautista.

Another thought was to part ways with Butler to make room for free agent Nelson Cruz, especially if the DH becomes more of a rotating position involving catcher Salvy Perez, who is under contract through 2019.

Moving Butler, whose 2013 season represented five-year lows in average (.289), runs (62) and matched a low in home runs (15), could happen. But it also would mean the Royals will have severed ties with one the one of the best hitters Yost has ever seen.

• Something else to keep in mind about Butler, who has two years left on his contract. He often has been compared to Edgar Martinez, one of the game’s greatest designated hitters. Martinez twice led the American League in batting, finished with a .312 career average and 309 home runs in an 18-year career.

But Martinez’s first full season didn’t happen until he was 27. Butler, with a .298 career average and 118 home runs, will turn 28 in April.