A's release veteran designated hitter Butler

A's release veteran designated hitter Butler

OAKLAND -- In a move that could hardly be described as surprising, the A's released Billy Butler on Sunday, ending a disappointing two-year relationship with the veteran designated hitter and first baseman.

Butler struggled to fit in with the A's after signing a $30 million, three-year contract prior to the 2015 season. He had been relegated to playing almost exclusively against left-handers this season and continued to see his playing time decreased after Oakland made its September callups.

"It was just time really," manager Bob Melvin said before the A's hosted the Seattle Mariners. "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."

Butler batted .276 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 85 games with the A's this season. That was a slight improvement over the previous season when the 30-year-old slugger hit a career-low .251 and had a slugging percentage of just .390.

The move comes 11 days after Oakland traded outfielder Coco Crisp to the Cleveland Indians.

"I knew it was a possibility because I wasn't playing. It's been like that all year," Butler said. "Now that Coco's gone I'm the highest paid player. They're not going to let guys making that much just sit around and not make a move eventually. I've been in the game long enough to know that moves like this happen.

"Unfortunately the last two seasons as a team it has not went as expected. Your higher-paid players end up taking part of the brunt of that. I was expected to come in and keep this organization where it was at. Multiple factors happened in that, but stuff like that happens."

Butler was involved in a clubhouse fight with teammate Danny Valencia during a road trip in August. Butler suffered a concussion after allegedly being hit by Valencia and later apologized to teammates for his role in the incident.

Butler, Melvin and A's general manager David Forst were in agreement that the fight between Butler and Valencia did not factor into the team's decision to part ways.

"It didn't play into our decision today," Forst said. "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."

An All-Star in 2012, Butler is confident he'll be back in the big leagues soon.

For now, he plans to spend time with his wife and three daughters.

"I offer a proven track record in the big leagues that can hit left-handers or right-handers," Butler 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."

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area. He covered the Athletics on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.