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The Royals’ payroll situation going into the 2021 off-season

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Will ownership spend some scratch?

Milwaukee Brewers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

A promising start by the Royals in 2021 raised hopes that perhaps the timeline for contention was accelerated. A dreadful summer added a dose of reality, but the club has played better down the stretch. With the season winding down, Royals fans will begin to look towards next year with some hope as prospects like Bobby Witt, Jr., MJ Melendez, and Nick Pratto should make their big league debuts. Let’s take a look at what the long-term payroll situation looks like.

The Royals had an Opening Day payroll of around $89 million this year. They have five players eligible for free agency this winter - Wade Davis, Jesse Hahn, Greg Holland, Ervin Santana, and Michael Taylor.

Next year, they have five players under contract, who will make a combined $46 million:

  • Salvador Perez - $18 million
  • Carlos Santana - $10.5 million
  • Mike Minor- $10 million
  • Hunter Dozier - $4.75 million
  • Whit Merrifield - $2.75 million

Source: Cot’s Contracts

They will have another seven players eligible for arbitration - Hanser Alberto, Scott Barlow, Andrew Benintendi, Cam Gallagher, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, and Adalberto Mondesi. MLB Trade Rumors will have their arbitration estimates out in a few weeks, but we can give our own ballpark estimate on what arbitration-eligible players for the Royals might receive.

Arbitration estimates for Royals in 2022

Player Current salary 2022 Arbitration year 2022 Estimate
Player Current salary 2022 Arbitration year 2022 Estimate
Hanser Alberto $1,650,000 Arb 3 $1,900,000
Scott Barlow $650,000 Arb 1 $2,000,000
Andrew Benintendi $6,600,000 Arb 3 $8,800,000
Cam Gallagher $604,000 Arb 1 $800,000
Jakob Junis $1,700,000 Arb 2 $1,900,000
Brad Keller $3,350,000 Arb 2 $5,500,000
Adalberto Mondesi $2,525,000 Arb 2 $4,200,000
Total $25,100,000

The total cost of the players is just over $25 million, and you could save a bit of money with non-tenders for Alberto, Gallagher, and/or Junis.

The other 14 players to fill out the roster would cost about $8-9 million.

Royals future payrolls

Player 2022 2023 2024 Notes
Player 2022 2023 2024 Notes
Salvador Perez $18,000,000 $20,000,000 $20,000,000
Carlos Santana $10,500,000 Free agent
Mike Minor $10,000,000 $1,000,000 Free agent $13M club option in 2023, $1M buyout
Hunter Dozier $4,750,000 $7,500,000 $9,250,000
Whit Merrifield $2,750,000 $750,000 Free agent $6.5M club option in 2023, $750k buyout
Andrew Benintendi $8,800,000 Free agent
Brad Keller $5,500,000 Arb 3 Free agent
Adalberto Mondesi $4,200,000 Arb 3 Free agent
Scott Barlow $2,000,000 Arb 2 Arb 3
Jakob Junis $1,900,000 Arb 3 Free agent
Hanser Alberto $1,900,000 Free agent
Cam Gallagher $800,000 Arb 2 Arb 3
Nicky Lopez $650,000 Arb 1 Arb 2
Brady Singer $650,000 Arb 1 Arb 2
Josh Staumont $650,000 Arb 1 Arb 2
Kyle Zimmer $650,000 Arb 1 Arb 2
Ryan O'Hearn $625,000
Carlos Hernandez $625,000
Jake Brentz $625,000
Domingo Tapia $625,000
Kyle Isbel $600,000
Edward Olivares $600,000
Kris Bubic $600,000
Daniel Lynch $600,000
Jackson Kowar $600,000
Richard Lovelady $600,000
Total $79,800,000 $29,250,000 $29,250,000

Numbers in italics are estimates. Source: Cot’s Contracts

It remains to be seen how much ownership will be willing to spend this off-season after taking a financial hit due to the pandemic in 2020. Fans were allowed in full capacity this season, but did not come back in droves due to COVID-19 concerns and poor summer play by the club. On the other hand, the team is benefitting from a new television deal that pays them substantially more than their old deal.

Royals payrolls

Year Opening day payroll
Year Opening day payroll
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
2021 $88,946,700

Source: Cot’s Contracts

The Royals have a winning record in the second half of the season, largely due to improved performance from the starting pitching staff, which is now filled with young arms. Management could decide to make a big splash in the free agent market to catapult the team into contention. There is still a glaring need in centerfield next year, and the team could use more depth in both the rotation and bullpen. Here is a list of players eligible for free agents this off-season. See anyone you like?