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Royals field $89 million Opening Day payroll

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The Royals retain that coveted financial flexibility going forward.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Royals fielded an Opening Day payroll of $88.9 million in 2021, keeping player expenses close to level despite financial losses last year. Around baseball, teams were cutting payroll left and right and claiming $1.8 billion in financial losses due to the shortened pandemic season that had no fans in attendance.

Last year, teams were projected to spend $4.9 billion on player payroll, which was pro-rated to $1.8 billion in player payroll due to the 60-game season. This year, teams have a collective player payroll of just $3.8 billion, according to data from Sportrac, a 22 percent decrease from what they would have spent in 2020. If you take 2020 payrolls, pro-rate them to a 162-game schedule and compare them to this year’s payroll, the Angels are the only team in baseball that actually increased their spending.

Last year, the Royals were projected to have an Opening Day payroll of around $93 million, but with the shortened season, the payroll was pro-rated down to just over $34 million. Not counting that year, this year’s payroll is the lowest the team has begun the season with since 2013.

Royals Opening Day payrolls over the years

Year Payroll
Year Payroll
2011 $38,176,000
2012 $64,001,725
2013 $81,871,725
2014 $92,185,521
2015 $112,857,025
2016 $131,487,125
2017 $143,005,817
2018 $122,233,117
2019 $96,565,066
2020 $34,199,019

Source: Baseball Prospectus

The Royals did make several commitments to players this off-season, signing free agents Carlos Santana, Mike Minor, Greg Holland, and Michael Taylor, trading for Andrew Benintendi, and signing Hunter Dozier and Salvador Perez to long-term contracts. Despite these commitments, they a good amount of financial flexibility going forward. The team has just $46 million in contractual obligations for 2022, although they have eight players likely eligible for arbitration that year. Those arbitration cases could total between $30 and $40 million in additional expenses, which should leave the Royals some room to make even more acquisitions this off-season. They will also have to decide if they want to retain Jorge Soler and Danny Duffy, both of whom are eligible for free agency after the season.

Royals’ 2021 payroll

Player 2021 2022 2023 2024 Notes
Player 2021 2022 2023 2024 Notes
Danny Duffy $15,500,000 Free agent
Salvador Perez $14,200,000 $18,000,000 $20,000,000 $20,000,000
Mike Minor $7,000,000 $10,000,000 $1,000,000 Free agent 2023 Club option for $13M
Carlos Santana $7,000,000 $10,500,000 Free agent
Jorge Soler $8,050,000 Free agent
Whit Merrifield $6,750,000 $2,750,000 $750,000 2023 Club option for $6.5M
Andrew Benintendi $6,600,000 Arbitration Free agent
Brad Keller $3,350,000 Arbitration Arbitration Free agent
Greg Holland $2,750,000 Free agent
Adalberto Mondesi $2,525,000 Arbitration Arbitration Free agent
Hunter Dozier $2,500,000 $4,750,000 $7,500,000 $9,250,000
Jesse Hahn $1,750,000 Free agent
Michael Taylor $1,750,000 Free agent
Jakob Junis $1,700,000 Arbitration Arbitration Free agent
Hanser Alberto $1,650,000 Arbitration Free agent
Jarrod Dyson $1,500,000 Free agent
Wade Davis $1,250,000 Free agent
Scott Barlow $650,000 Arbitration Arbitration Arbitration
Cam Gallagher $604,000 Arbitration Arbitration Arbitration
Nicky Lopez $597,500
Brady Singer $593,700 Arbitration Arbitration
Josh Staumont $588,700 Arbitration Arbitration
Kyle Zimmer $588,700 Arbitration Arbitration
Ryan McBroom $583,900 Arbitration Arbitration
Carlos Hernández $574,200 Arbitration
Jake Brentz $570,500 Arbitration
Kyle Isbel $570,500 Arbitration
From Boston -$2,800,000
$88,946,700 $46,000,000 $29,250,000 $29,250,000

Source: Baseball Prospectus

The Royals have even more flexibility in 2023, when Salvador Perez and Hunter Dozier are the only players under contract, although the club will hold options on Mike Minor and Whit Merrifield. That flexibility may be important as that may be when Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Adalberto Mondesi, and Josh Staumont could all be eligible for arbitration, with perhaps a Bobby Witt, Jr. long-term deal looming as well.

The Royals rank 22nd among teams in payroll, with the average payroll coming in at $127 million. The Los Angeles Dodgers top all teams in spending with a payroll of just over $247 million, followed by the Yankees, Astros, Mets, and Phillies. The Cleveland Indians have the lowest payroll in baseball at $49.7 million.