The Oakland Athletics have released Billy Butler, the team has officially announced. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser tweeted the news minutes before the official announcement as Butler was leaving the clubhouse:
Butler’s three-year, $30 million contract runs through the 2017 season, with $10 million owed to Butler in 2017.
It was initially unclear whether Butler was even going to make the 2016 club after an extremely poor performance as the club’s DH in 2015, hitting .251/.323/.390 for a 99 wRC+ in 601 plate appearances. Butler saw his playing time reduced when the right-handed batter was pushed into a platoon role and only had 242 plate appearances on the year. Butler ended up with a reverse split, however, hitting .262/.316/369 against lefties (84 wRC+ in 114 PAs) and .288/.344/.432 against righties (113 wRC+ in 128 PAs).
While Butler’s fate was probably sealed long ago, one can’t help but wonder if the decision to drop him in September was affected by a clubhouse altercation between him and third baseman Danny Valencia that resulted in Butler going on the concussion disabled list. Susan Slusser reported on Aug. 22 that Butler involved himself in a discussion between Valencia and an equipment representative regarding a pair of non-standard spikes the representative noticed in Valencia’s locker, potentially putting Valencia’s endorsement contract at risk. A heated discussion after the representative led to “Valencia ... swinging and hit[ting] Butler in the temple.”
For Butler’s part, he entirely attributes his release to his poor performance on the field and not any off the field shenanigans:
Butler says he doesn't believe altercation with Valencia had any bearing on his release, calls it a non-issue.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 11, 2016
Butler takes responsibility for last year's poor season. Says this year can't really judge it because of limited opportunities.— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) September 11, 2016
Butler had not appeared in a game since September 6 after the A’s turned their focus to their youth movement. The addition of Matt McBride as a third catcher also allowed the A’s to play Bruce Maxwell and Stephen Vogt as a DH in recent days.
For a club that is infamously “efficient” with how it spends its money, Butler represented a monumental error in judgment from the Beane/Forst front office. While Billy Butler isn’t the sole reason the A’s have been so poor for the last two years, he represents $30 million and two seasons down the drain.