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Arbitration estimates and the 2017 Royals payroll

It is time to pay the piper.

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Royals face an important off-season this winter, as they attempt to win one more championship with the window of contention seemingly closing after next season. The team is already talking about cutting payroll, which may prove to be a difficult task considering the contracts already on the books. The Royals also have seven arbitration-eligible players who are due raises. MLB Trade Rumors annually provides projections on what arbitration-eligible players can expect to receive based on history.

Here are the projections for the eight Royals:

  • Eric Hosmer – $13.3MM
  • Danny Duffy – $8.2MM
  • Kelvin Herrera – $5.3MM
  • Dillon Gee – $3.6MM
  • Jarrod Dyson – $2.5MM
  • Tim Collins – $1.5MM
  • Daniel Nava – $1.5MM
  • Tony Cruz – $1.0MM

Hosmer would be the third-highest paid Royals player next year if he receives that salary, behind only Alex Gordon and Ian Kennedy. He was paid $8.25 million last season. Brandon Belt, a first baseman who he is frequently compared to, will be paid $8.8 million next year before jumping up to $16 million under a long-term deal he signed. Hosmer is said to be seeking a $200 million long-term deal.

Danny Duffy would enjoy a $4 million raise under this model, although he would be a bargain if he can come close to replicating his numbers from last year. Kelvin Herrera is due a hefty raise for a middle reliever, more than doubling his salary. Dillon Gee, Tim Collins, Daniel Nava, and Tony Cruz are all non-tender candidates, meaning the Royals can let them go and not pay the $7.6 million in projected salaries for those players.

Here is how those arbitration estimates look with the current committed salaries.

Yes, the Royals still owe Omar Infante $10 million over the next two seasons, despite letting him go last summer. The Royals will definitely pick up the club option on Wade Davis, and it seems very likely they would exercise the option on Alcides Escobar as well. Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, Kris Medlen, and Luke Hochevar all have mutual options that are expected to be declined by one party or the other. It is believed that the Royals would still owe a buyout on those contracts, as Dayton Moore has typically used mutual options as a way to defer money.

As you can see, if the Royals simply stood pat this off-season, their payroll would be over $152 million, or 10% higher than last year’s franchise-record $137 million payroll. Cutting some expected non-tenders brings that down to $144 million. So if the Royals really want to cut payroll, they’re going to have to move a player making significant money that someone else is willing to take (i.e. probably not Joakim Soria). And that is before they address any holes on this team such as starting pitching or designated hitter.

The Royals probably need to decide if they want to cut payroll or contend for another championship next year. Trying to thread the needle won’t cut it. Bringing a core group of players up together is a great way to build team camaraderie, but it also means dealing with the same salary concerns for those players at the same time. The Royals have had a lot of success the past few years, but the bill is coming due.