The Royals are in good shape payroll wise right now for the 2013 season. The magic number for payroll is probably somewhere between $80M and $85M. That's probably about where the break even line is for the Royals if they are contending. Perhaps able to push to $90M, but that's not really certain.
The question now is how much the Royals can spend to address their roster holes while staying at least break even or even profitable.2013 everyday Lineup
The Royals have committed $28M to 5 positions (DH, LF, SS, C, RF) for 2013. 1B, 3B and CF are pre arbitration players. 2B is either going to be arb eligible (Getz) or pre arb (Gio, Colon) unless the Royals go outside the organization to fill in. If the Royals keep Francoeur ($6.75M) and Getz on a reasonable arb deal (making $0.975M this year, so bump that to $1.3M in arb) and escalate LoCain, Moose and Hoz at a reasonable rate (around 800K each, they will be at $31.7M for the everyday lineup.
Assuming GMDM doesn't bring Betancourt back as a utility player (please God no), the bench should be pretty cheap next year. Dyson is pre arb, as would be Lough or D Rob. Bourgeois is also pre arb. Falu is pre arb, as are Gio and Colon. Manny Pina is pre arb. Brayan Pena is arb eligible, but probably won't command much of a raise over his current $875K salary. If it's Pena and any combo of three pre arb guys, we are probably looking at a $2.5M bench.
It's doubtful the Royals bid to keep Broxton. Mijares is arb eligible ($925K). Soria has a team option for $8M. Blake Wood is arb eligible. Crow is pre arb, but is at $1.6M this season. Every other bullpen arm (Holland, Herrera, Collins, Coleman, etc.) is pre arb and making less than $500K this year. The Royals could presumably decline Soria's option, offer Mijares and Wood arb ($1.2 or so for Mijares, $650K for Wood) and then offer Soria a deal in the $4M range and still bring everyone else (Crow, Holland, Herrera, Collins, Coleman and a longman) back and have a bullpen for around $10M.
That's $44.2M or so before the rotation.
Chen is in at $4.5M. Hochevar is arb eligible ($3.51M this year). There is (hopefully) no way the Royals offer Sanchez arbitration. Paulino is arb eligible ($1.9M this year). Everyone else (Duffy, Adcock, Mazzaro, Smith, Teaford, Odorizzi, etc.) is not arb eligible and making less than $500K this year. Noel Arguelles is on the books for $1.38M The Royals have less than $16M committed to the starting rotation for next year, even including Arguelles.
What to do with the money
Get pitching, of course.
The Royals have $20M-$25M available for next season. That's enough for one really good pitcher and one hopefully okay pitcher. That won't get it done.
First things first, replace Jeff Francoeur with Wil Myers. That saves KC over $6M. Next, shop Mijares before the deadline as well. He's inexpensive, but also ultimately replaceable. Those two moves could save the Royals close to $6.5M for next season. That's half of a good starter. If someone inquires about Bruce Chen, make a deal. If Luke Hochevar isn't lights out, don't offer him arb until after the free agent pool has thinned.
If the Royals do that, they could have between $26M and $31M to spend on pitching, maybe more if there are takers for Chen as well. Now we're talking.
Greinke ($13.5M), Marcum ($7.725M), A. Sanchez ($8M), E. Jackson ($11M), Saunders ($6M), McCarthy ($4.275), Hamels ($15M), and Colby Lewis ($8M) are all out on the market this year. We absolutely need two of the options on this list, three if one of them can come for a reasonable price (under $8M per).
First offer Greinke 6 years, $100M, which comes out to $16.7M per year. However, we'd need to front load it a tad (something like 18, 18, 17, 16, 16, 15) to give us some flexibility in 2015 and beyond. If he declines, offer Hamels a similar deal or offer Jackson similar years, but less money (14, 14, 14, 13, 13, 12, 80 total). If we strike out there, be aggressive with the guys in the next two paragraphs.
Second, offer Marcum or Sanchez both deals in the 5 year, $57M range. Go low on the first two years, with most of the money in the middle (something like $10, 11, 13, 12, 11). Whomever accepts first, come on down. If neither accepts be very aggressive with the guys in the next paragraph.
Put a deal together for McCarthy in the 6 year, $55M range (8, 9, 10, 10, 9, 8). If he declines, offer Lewis and Saunders 3 year deals (front loaded) in the $24M-$28M range (9,9,8). Whomever accepts first, come on down. If we can't get those guys, then offer Hochevar arbitration. Basically Luke is the line. If we can upgrade without breaking the bank, we do. If not, we pay Luke $4.5M next year.
Ideally, this nets us a rotation something like this to start 2013:
1) Greinke, Hamels or Edwin Jackson ($14-$18M)
2) Marcum or Anibal Sanchez ($10-$12M)
4) Odorizzi, Bruce Chen, or Luis Mendoza (Bruce makes $4.5M. The others are pre arb)
At some point Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy would hopefully be ready to go and they could plug in wherever there are holes. We would still have depth if injuries occurred, and we'd have a real, live major league rotation. For roughly $28M-$30M we can get either 1 elite (Greinke or Hamels) pitcher plus another solid (Marcum or A. Sanchez) pitcher, or we can get 2 solid pitchers (Marcum and Sanchez) plus another decent pitcher (McCarthy, Lewis or Saunders). We would probably only bring back either Hochevar or Chen, but probably not both and use cost controlled guys (Odorizzi, Mendoza, Mazzaro, Smith, Teaford, Lamb, etc.) for the other spots.
Worst case scenario we end up only getting a guy like Marcum plus a guy like McCarthy and bring back both Chen and Hochevar with Odorizzi as well, knowing that Paulino and Duffy would be back soon enough.
That would give us a payroll somewhere between $80M and $85M with some future flexibility as well. And we could do that without bankrupting our system or skyrocketing the payroll.