As most expected, this season is already circling the drain, so many have turned their focus to next year. Might the Royals have the payroll flexibility to make significant improvements to the team through trade or free agency? Certainly a lot of money is coming off the books. But there will also be raises in players' contracts and through arbitration. So how does it all shake out? First, I'll look at the Royals current payroll and their obligations through 2014. Then I'll fill in the blanks for 2011 with some estimates to see what next year's payroll might look like.
The two figures use the following color coding:
CO = Club option
MO = Mutual option
bo = buyout
As you can see, the Royals opening day payroll was at about $75 million. I did not attempt to include every penny of prorated league minimum for minor leaguers who have played part of the season in the majors. If anyone sees any glaring errors in either the numbers, the arbitration years or anything else, please let me know in the comments.
I think the team control boxes show that 2013 could be a very important year for the Royals. Some highly touted prospects could/should be contributing in the majors by then and it will also be the final arbitration year for players like Hochevar, Gordon, Butler, and Callaspo. I tend to dismiss talk of a certain future "window of opportunity" for a team to contend, as much could and probably will change by 2013. But the Royals might have a window in which both prospects and current young players are contributing for the Royals in 2012-13 period.
But let's focus on the near future. How much money will the Royals have to spend on new talent in 2011? The difficulties in estimating this are options and arbitration amounts. Four players have options for 2011: DeJesus, Farnworth, Podsednik (club options), and Ankiel (mutul option). For the purpose of the following estimate, I have the Royals exercising DeJesus's option and none of the others. With regard to arbitration awards, I did my best to take into account service time and performance (projected through the end of 2010) as well as appropriate comps. If you have an opinion on any or all of the arbitration award estimates, please share them in the comments.
While 25 players are listed above, four of them are just contract buyouts. So that is over $72 million for 21 players. If the 2011 payroll is at the 2010 level, that leaves just $3 million to spend on improvements. If Glass were willing to push the payroll up to $80 million -- which I think is unlikely in 2011 -- then the Royals would have $8 million to spend on upgrades. Unless David Glass starts channelling his inner Steinbrenner, I think we can forget about top tier free agents. Maybe one second tier FA. Or [snark alert] more likely, Dayton Moore will bring in a few affordable but overpaid veteran scrubs.