Around the Horn: A's tied down at DH

January 15th, 2016

A multi-part Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, turns its focus to the designated hitter after covering catcher,  first base, second base, shortstop and third base.

Who's at designated hitter?

Unless the A's can find a trade partner willing to take on the $20 million he's owed over the next two seasons, Billy Butler will be back in the DH spot in Oakland's lineup. The only player on the A's roster in line to make more money than Butler in 2016 is another DH option: Coco Crisp, who will make $11 million. Crisp's unpredictable health could lead to less time in the outfield and more innings spent at DH in an effort to keep him off the field. Mark Canha is a solid option at the position, too, on days he's not on the field.

Offensive outlook

Butler will be just 30 soon after the 2016 season opens, and the A's can only hope that means there's still life in his bat, but the designated hitter has much to prove after flopping in his first year in Oakland. Butler hit .251 -- 20 points below his previous career low of .271 -- and his 65 RBIs were his fewest since 2008 (55). Moreover, despite tying for third among AL designated hitters in games played (136), he ranked just eighth in home runs at the position (14) and finished with only 15 overall. He also owned the second lowest slugging percentage (.392) among the seven full-time DHs and grounded into 26 double plays.

Depth chart

Butler's decline may lead Oakland to find a way to unload him, but actually doing so will be difficult, leaving the A's left to simply wonder if he has the kind of bounce-back ability in him to return to the type of offensive performer he's previously been in his career. Should they actually cut ties with Butler, the A's would likely replace his at-bats from within, passing the DH baton around the roster as a means of giving players added rest -- as they've done with Crisp in the past.