The signing itself shouldn't come as a huge surprise to the readers of AL Central in Focus as I've been speculating that such a signing was in the works.
"[Kyle Davies] signing leaves Billy Butler as the only remaining arbitration eligible player not under contract. I'm guessing they might be working on hammering out a multi-year extension that could buy out his arbitration years and perhaps a year or two of free agency."
While details on how much Butler will be paid during each season aren't out yet, I'd venture a guess that it'll be along the lines of 3m in 2011 with 3m increases each year through completion. That'd look like this;
Of course as soon as I have the actual figures I'll update this post to reflect that.
By signing Butler to a long-term deal now, the Royals ensure that the cornerstone of their offense will still be around as the team's impressive group of young prospects begins to percolate through the 25-man roster over the next few years. Eventually one of those prospects, Eric Hosmer, is likely to supplant Butler at first, but for the foreseeable future the position is Butler's to lose.
It's hard to believe but Butler, who seems like he's been around forever now (at least to me), will be just 25 in 2011 and is hardly much older than the group of youngsters right behind him. He isn't yet a dominant offensive force per se, but he is far and away the closest thing the Royals have to one and with Zack Greinke gone, he and Joakim Soria are the undisputed faces of the Franchise.
Typically as players begin to reach their mid-20s their power starts to manifest itself more and I expect the same from Butler. He doesn't have elite power, but projecting him as a consistent 25 homer-a-year player seems perfectly reasonable.
While I expect Butler's power production to increase, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see his batting average come down some from it's 2010 peak of .318. Butler's BABIP marks the past two years of .332 and .341 simply aren't sustainable for all but the greatest of line drive hitters and Butler is not in that class. He's probably more of a .290-.300 hitter than the .320 one he appeared as last unless he starts hitting significantly more line drives or for significantly more power. Not that there's anything wrong with hitting a consistent .290-.300.
Going forward it seems reasonable to expect Butler to become a .295/.370/.500 type of hitter which would rank him among the top half of the games first basemen. Regardless of way his contract plays out, Butler should continue to prove to be a great value for the Royals on the field and a valuable mentor to the teams burgeoning stars off of it.