The Oakland Athletics signed Billy Butler to a three-year, $30 million dollar deal back in November of 2014. This move was certainly confusing since they A’s did not normally have a player appointed to the designated hitter position and Butler did not have a great 2014 season despite being on a team that went to the World Series. Additionally, the A’s like platoon players and those who can play numerous fielding positions – two things Butler does not do. Nonetheless, many were intrigued to see what Butler could do for the team.
Unfortunately, Butler has been worse this year than he was in 2014. It is clear that after eight years in the MLB, his talent and plate production is slowly declining. However, manager Bob Melvin told the media on Sunday that Butler will continue to get regular playing time in spite of his recent slump.
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July and August have been a pretty terrible months for Butler. He batted only .197 in July and .200 for August so far. Additionally, Butler has not hit a homerun in the last 18 games in which he has played. His WAR has dropped dramatically over the past three seasons from a 1.5 in 2013 to a -0.3 last year to a -1.5 for 2015. It is becoming clear that Butler does not have the same power bat he did just a few years ago.
Additionally, even though Butler can play first base, he is not very good at it. He has only played in five games this season at first, and he is clearly rusty and out of shape. The A’s also have Ike Davis who is a true first baseman defensively, so why put Butler at there anyways?
Lastly, the Oakland Athletics use to use the DH position for players who were just coming off the DL, so that they could still be in the lineup, but not play in the field in order to ease them slowly back into playing baseball at the MLB level. This tactic was used last year for Coco Crisp when he returned from one of his many stints on the disabled list. With Butler filling that spot, players coming back from the disabled list are thrown right back out into their typical fielding positions and have a higher probability of incurring another injury.
Oakland did finally bench Butler on August 8 and it was the first time Butler had not played in a game since July 12. Because of his terrible season, the Athletics should be benching Butler more often to give some of other, more offensively successful players additional time at the plate. Ultimately, if he continues to struggle, the A’s should try to move him this offseason.