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Will they love us now? The Royals and free agency in a brave new world

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Are they there yet?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Rumor is, no one wants to sign with Kansas City. I should say, that was the rumor. When you are a perennial non-contender with the Best Farm System In The History Of Whatever, with little results in the major leagues, there was - and with merit - a perception that going to Kansas City was more or less the graveyard for the down-and-out veteran with little prospect of signing elsewhere.

A slew of names comes to mind. Jose Guillen. Reggie Sanders. Juan Gonzalez. Benito Santiago. Roberto Hernandez, though he was traded for. The team gave $2,000,000 to Chuck Knoblauch years after he had forgotten how to throw because they were that desperate for production and no one else wanted to come around.

Now, some of these moves also need to be considered for the time in which they occurred. From 1997 to 2005, David Glass was strong-arming college seniors into accepting below-market signing bonuses, was operating on the cheap in all aspects of the front office, and was certainly skimping on player salaries at the time.

Presumably, that all has changed, and with the recent bout of success the team has had (back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in twenty years, an ALCS berth), you'd think that maybe the Royals are an attractive suitor for the first time since Wally Joyner, Greg Gagne, and Gary Gaetti headlined a free agent class that led the Royals to an 84-78 record in 1993 (full disclosure: Joyner was signed in 1992).

So what kind of clout does success bring to a team like the Royals? Well, let's take a look at our long-suffering brothers-in-arms, the Pirates. Following a 94-68 season, which resulted in an NLDS loss in five games, the Pirates were able to roll up their sleeves and sign Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez on a pair of one-year, make-good deals totaling $11,000,000. The team was also somewhat hamstrung by the Wandy Rodriguez contract, wherein they paid the left-hander $13,000,000 for just twenty-six innings this season, which trumped the $13,000,000 they paid him last year for sixty-two innings.

There's not much outside of that, unless you want to hang your hat on Travis Ishikawa.

That isn't to say that the two situations are identical. The Royals won't have a Wandy dangling from their neck. Between Shields, Chen, and (presumably) playoff revenues, increased season ticket sales, and David Glass's thorough commitment to winning, along with loosing some mid-level contracts like Justin Maxwell and Norichika Aoki, and the possibility that Billy Butler won't be around, or Luke Hochevar's $5,200,000, there's reason to believe that Kansas City's payroll could go up from the ~$92,000,000 that it ended up as.

There are some complications, though. Gordon's salary goes up. Guthrie's salary goes up. Vargas and Infante go up. Hosmer, Holland, Crow, Collins, Moustakas, Cain, Coleman, Dyson, Herrera, and Duffy are all eligible for arbitration for the first time, or will see increases from Year 1 to Year 2. So, standing pat on payroll probably means roughly the same team that took the field this season, sans James Shields.

In the meantime, winning eight more games would change a lot as well. So, maybe do that.