Butler agreed to a contract Monday with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization on a one-year, $1 million contract that includes a $200,000 signing bonus, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reports. The 27-year-old recently lost his spot on the Rangers' 40-man roster and was subsequently outrighted to the minor leagues. Rather than accepting a minor-league assignment and remaining a member of the Texas organization, Butler will bolt overseas for a more lucrative payday than he would have earned stateside. Depending on how well he performs in Korea, Butler could generate renewed interest from MLB teams when he becomes a free agent next winter.
Butler was sent outright to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday. Butler was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for minor-league prospects prior to the Rule 5 draft. The 27-year-old made 30 relief appearances between the Cubs and Rangers in 2018, posting a 5.62 ERA and 1.57 WHIP with 29 strikeouts over 49.2 frames.
Butler allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits over 4.1 innings of relief in Tuesday's loss to the Dodgers. He struck out two. Butler has been used primarily as a multi-inning reliever since being acquired by the Rangers and was stretched out enough to throw 68 pitches Tuesday. That's more than starter Ariel Jurado, who was given the hook after 2.2 innings and 61 pitches. Jurado is not assured of a next start, so manager Jeff Banister will explore all options, including giving Butler a start. The 27-year-old right-hander has made 39 starts during his career for the Cubs and Rockies, but nothing in his track record or his performance with the Rangers inspires confidence. He has a 5.65 ERA over 192.2 innings as a starter and is sitting on a 7.11 ERA in 10 outings since coming to Texas in the Cole Hamels trade.
Butler will get multi-inning duty as the Rangers evaluate him as a possible starter, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports. Manager Jeff Banister wants to get a better feel for where Butler may fit in the team's plans. That experiment began Thursday, when Butler finished up the final 3.2 innings of Texas' 17-8 win over the Orioles and picked up a save in the process. The 27-year-old, who was acquired from the Cubs as part of the Cole Hamels trade, had been used primarily as a starter with the Cubs and Rockies before pitching exclusively out of the bullpen in 2018. Banister intends to have Butler piggy-back with a current rotation member in an effort to stretch him out, with an eye toward having him compete as a starter next spring.
Butler (groin) allowed one earned run over two innings in Tuesday's loss to the Diamondbacks, which marked his first appearance at the MLB level since April 19. Butler's season barely got started before he was shut down with a right groin strain, so it was good to see him back on the hill Tuesday. If the 27-year-old righty can stay healthy, he figures to serve in a long-relief role the rest of the year for the Cubs.