The Winter Meetings are under way for MLB, and the Seattle Mariners came in looking to deal. At the top of their wish-list was a big bat that could add some pop to the listless Seattle offense. As the free agent market starts to get a little rich for the M’s liking, the Mariners could turn to a trade to address their offensive woes. Their top target: Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals.
The 26-year old Butler has been a staple of the Royals’ lineup since 2007 and is coming off his best season yet as a major-leaguer. Last season, Butler hit .313 with an career-best OPS of .882 while hitting 29 home runs and driving in 111 RBI (both career bests as well). He played predominantly as a DH last year, but did make 20 starts at first base and has started 344 games at first in his career.
The Mariners make for a logical trade partner with Kansas City because the Royals are looking to bolster their pitching staff and Seattle is stocked with talented young arms. Other teams, including the Baltimore Orioles, have shown a “strong interest” in Butler, but Seattle has the most pieces to offer via trade. According to reports, the M’s would be willing to part with some of their young, high-end prospects for Butler’s bat.
Last season, the Mariners finished last in the American League in runs scored for the fourth straight year and had just one player, third baseman Kyle Seager, hit 20 home runs. The M’s also didn’t have a single player within 25 RBI of matching Butler last season as Seager led the team with 86. Seattle has a lineup that is desperate for offense, and Butler could definitely provide that.
The stumbling block to this potential trade is possible apprehension on the part of the Royals. A few weeks ago, Butler was deemed “untouchable” by the Kansas City front office. They have softened on that stance to listen to offers, but still fear that they won’t have enough offense left in their lineup to lose Butler’s production. Adding pitching without any hitting to back it up isn’t going to do much to help. Just ask the Mariners.
While Seattle will have to part with one or two premier pieces to likely pry Butler away from Kansas City, don’t expect Jack Zduriencik to sell the farm just to rent a little extra pop for the lineup.
How much will Kansas City ask for? Will the Mariners have to give up too much? We’ll have to keep watching the Winter Meetings to know for sure, but one thing’s for sure: The M’s are making moves.