Late Tuesday, news broke that the Oakland Athletics were on the verge of signing first baseman/designated hitter Billy Butler to a multi-year contract. Wednesday morning, it was confirmed that Oakland had signed the 28-year-old eight-year veteran to a three-year, $30 million contract.
Billy Butler has seen his OPS decline each of the last two seasons and hit .271/.323/.379 with just nine home runs in 2014. He's also eclipsed 20 home runs just twice in his career, though he's been a strong doubles hitter with good on base skills. The going rate for that, apparently, is $30 million now.
Two-and-a-half weeks ago, the Brewers traded for Adam Lind, a first baseman/designated hitter. Lind hit .321/.381/.479 with six home runs in 2014 and has launched 20+ home runs four times in his nine-year career. Lind isn't very good defensively, and neither is Butler. Adam Lind is making $7.5 million in 2015 and there is a club option for 2016 worth $8 million; thus, the largest possible financial commitment for Lind is $15.5 million for two years, or about half Butler's contract for one fewer season.
The Brewers also did not have to give up much of consequence for Lind, sending pitcher Marco Estrada to Toronto. Estrada was a good possibility to be non-tendered, anyway, given his tendency to give up home runs and his expanding contract in arbitration.
Don't get me wrong, Butler is pretty clearly the better player of the two -- he had a poor season in 2014, but I think most people would expect him to bounce back. He's not an MVP or perennial All Star or anything, but Butler is a strong bat to be sure. He is also able to hit both handedness of pitching effectively, something Lind cannot.
Still, though, given this contract I think we can be even happier with the Lind deal. Butler wasn't likely to be on the Brewers' radar given he's not much of a first baseman anymore. But if he was able to earn $30 million, what will Adam LaRoche get? LaRoche, despite being older, would probably be the preferred free agent first baseman for teams due to his strong hitting and consistency over his career. He should probably earn more than Butler, and that starts to get into pretty big money territory.
Lind isn't a perfect option at first base, and there are absolutely question marks that come with him. His defense isn't great, and he should never, ever hit against a left handed pitcher. But in a platoon situation, he should provide a strong on base presence with, hopefully, rebounding power.
The Brewers could have found better production at first base this offseason than they did in Lind. But dollar-for-dollar, it's not looking like they would have been able to find a better deal.