Posted on September 12, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The two Oakland Athletics players involved in a now infamous clubhouse altercation earlier this season appear to be on their way out of Oakland. On Sunday, the A’s announced the release of designated hitter Billy Butler, who spent time on the concussion DL earlier this year after a physical altercation with now former teammate Danny Valencia. There are also reports that Valencia could also be released before the end of the season.
The A’s say that Butler’s altercation with Valencia was not the reason for his release. Instead, it was his diminished playing time combined with the team attempting to move onto younger players. “It was just time really,” manager Bob Melvin said Sunday. “It’s uncomfortable for a guy like him to sit on the bench. His at-bats were drying up. He wasn’t going to be in the plans for next year. I give the organization credit for doing this now rather than later and making what could be an uncomfortable situation even more with a guy like him not getting any at-bats.”
“It didn’t play into our decision today,” Oakland GM David Forst said about Butler’s run-in with Valencia. “Obviously he didn’t perform last year up to what we expected. Coming into this year it was tough for him to ever get going. We made some moves in the offseason that took away from some of his opportunities this year. There were times, right before the incident, where he was swinging the bat well. He obviously still has ability. It just wasn’t going to be a fit here.”
Butler is under contract for next season, and so the A’s will be on the hook for his $10 million salary in 2017. Another team can sign him at the major league minimum, allowing Oakland to save some money.
Butler says he wasn’t all that surprised by the move, but that he expects to be back in the big leagues next season. “I offer a proven track record in the big leagues that can hit left-handers or right-handers,” he said. “I felt like I got pigeon-holed in the platoon system here. That’s the way they do things here. It’s not right or wrong … but you don’t have the type of at-bats I have in the big leagues with the success I’ve had not being able to hit both sides.”
Meanwhile, the team is expected to also release Valencia before the end of the season. With Butler being released not long after the A’s traded Coco Crisp, it’s clear the team is trying to get younger, playing a role in both players having diminished roles late in the season. Oakland was expected to non-tender Valencia at season’s end, and so releasing him now would simply be parting ways a little sooner than expected. Again, it does not appear Valencia’s potential release would be related to his encounter with Butler in the clubhouse earlier this year.
It’s unclear when Valencia will be released, if indeed those reports are true. However, it’s possible Valencia could sign with a contending team to provide a boost late in the season, as he’s had a good season offensively and offers some defensive versatility. Of course, Valencia would not be eligible to play in the postseason with that team. Either way, it appears that both Butler and Valencia will end up being free agents looking for a new team this winter.