2016 Statistics: .284/.336/.416, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 108 OPS+ (274 PA)
Age on Opening Day 2017: 30
Position: DH/1B (preferably just DH)
Long gone are the days of 2012. You can ask Chase Headley about that, or even Billy Butler. Butler was an All-Star in Kansas City just four seasons ago, hitting 29 home runs with 107 RBI, all while batting a stellar .313. His batting average has steadily declined since that apex season, and Butler officially hit bottom this past summer when he was released by the Athletics after a clubhouse altercation with teammate Danny Valencia.
Butler was essentially signed by the Yankees to fill a void left by the injured and struggling Aaron Judge, who suffered an oblique strain at a time where the Yankees were entering a crucial stretch in their schedule. Most of their upcoming opponents were slated to start southpaws, and a right-handed bat with a history of pop wasn’t a bad idea, considering he would cost next to nothing. Enter Butler.
Butler actually came to the Bronx swinging a hot bat. In his first week as a Yankee, Butler batted .444 (8 for 18) with two doubles and a home run at Fenway Park in his second game with the team. He slowed down towards the end of the regular season, recording just two more hits the rest of the way to finish 10 for 29 during his brief pinstriped tenure. He finished the season batting .284 with both clubs, hitting just five home runs in 250 at-bats.
The plummet of power production is certainly a major concern, but at least his average was solid. He has shown he can hit left-handed pitching, and his strikeout percentage remains well below the league average. Furthermore, his extra base hits percentage in 2016 was the highest it has been since that pinnacle 2012 season. The home runs are dwindling, but he still has some life left in his bat.
His glove is a different story. If the Yankees were to bring Butler back for a year, it would surely be to only hit. The Yankees tried him at first base a couple times down the stretch, and he looked lost for the most part. The Yankees will pray that Greg Bird can return to form and assume that role as the first baseman, and leave Butler to worry about his at bats rather than his glove. His fielding ship has likely sailed.
There will likely be little noise around Butler’s camp this offseason, so if the Yankees wanted to bring him back, it would be a very low cost risk. He is still just 30 years old, and nobody is expecting him to perform like it’s 2012. Maintaining his recent batting average and ability to make contact would be enough for a platoon DH who would likely only be in the lineup against lefties (although he hit .288 against righties last season).
Now let’s play devil’s advocate. McCann is gone, which opens up a need at DH, but let’s remember why Butler was brought on in the first place. A large part was the lefties the Yankees were facing down the stretch, but also the fact that McCann struggled mightily against left handed pitching. Does McCann’s subtraction erase Butler from Brian Cashman’s checklist? Possibly. However, Butler could be brought on for loose change, and he has shown that he can still use his bat for something, albeit not for power.