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Let’s take a peek at the Royals’ 2024 payroll

I’m already ready to look ahead.

Kansas City Royals v. Chicago White Sox Photo by Matt Dirksen/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Royals are playing out the string, with the only drama remaining being by how much will they set the new club record for losses? We will take deeper dives on the off-season when it gets here, but I did want to give Royals fans ready to start discussing next year’s team a peek at the payroll situation.

The Royals should already have enormous flexibility next year, and with ownership asking for a new stadium, there will be immense pressure to spend even more. There are only three players under contract for the Royals next year:

  • Salvador Perez - $20 million
  • Jordan Lyles - $8.5 million
  • Jake Brentz - $1.05 million

There have been rumors the Royals have discussed moving Salvador Perez if he is open to it (he would have veto rights over any trade), but most likely would have to eat some of his salary to make a deal happen if they want any kind of decent prospect return. Salvy is signed through 2025, when he will make $22 million, with a $13.5 million club option in 2026 and a $2 million buyout. Lyles will be a free agent after next year, and if the Royals want to seriously improve, they’ll have to at least consider cutting ties with the 32-year-old right-hander with an ERA of 6.44, even if they’re obligated to pay the remainder of his deal. Brentz signed a two-year deal last year as the Royals knew he would miss all of 2023.

The Royals have three players eligible for free agency - Zack Greinke, Brad Keller, and Matt Duffy. Only Greinke would be likely to return on a MLB contract, and there is a decent chance he instead decides to retire.

The Royals will likely have nine players eligible for arbitration:

  • Taylor Hearn (third year of arbitration)
  • Matt Beaty (second year)
  • Kris Bubic (second year)
  • Taylor Clarke (second year)
  • Brady Singer (second year)
  • Josh Staumont (second year)
  • Josh Taylor (second year)
  • Carlos Hernández (first year)
  • Edward Olivares (first year)

MLB Trade Rumors will come out with their arbitration estimates in the off-season, but we can take a rough stab at salaries. Hearn, Beaty, and Clarke seem like pretty obvious non-tender candidates, but if the Royals were to somehow bring them back, they would be in line for slight raises up to around $1.5 million each. Josh Taylor could also be a non-tender candidate after missing much of the year, but if they brought him back he’d probably get around $1.5 million as well.

Hernández and Olivares will both be eligible for arbitration for the first time. Olivares is a semi-regular, while Hernández is a promising reliever with mixed results. You can probably expect a salary of $2-3 million for each, leaving Olivares as a potential non-tender candidate if he isn’t clearly in the plans for next year.

Bubic missed all of this season with injury, but would still get a raise from his $2.2 million salary through the arbitration process, although missed games does seem to be a factor in salary (see Mondesi, Adalberto). Conservatively, he would likely get around $2.5 million, similar to what Chris Paddack received last year after missing most of the year.

Staumont also missed much of the year and could be a non-tender candidate depending on his health. He has showed flashes early in his career, but regressed badly in 2022 and was not effective in 20 innings this year. He made $1.05 million this year in his first year of arbitration and would likely not make much more than $1.5 million next year.

Brady Singer could be the real X-factor in next year’s payroll (unless a Bobby Witt Jr. extension is in the works?) He seemed like part of the future after a very promising 2022 season, but regressed badly in 2023 and is ending the year with a velocity drop, poor control, and disappointing results. That may put the kibosh on any long-term contract talks or trade talks (the Dodgers reportedly checked in on him this summer). Singer would still be in line for a raise from his $2.95 million salary, probably between $4-5 million, although his last few starts may shave a few dollars off that amount.

Assuming they only tender Staumont, Olivares, Hernández, Singer, and Bubic, I would put their total salaries for arbitration-eligible players at no more than $15 million. Combine that with the $29.05 million to the three players under contract, the $9.25 million still owed to Hunter Dozier next year, and $13 million or so for the remaining 18 players to fill out a roster at the minimum salary, and you have about $66.3 million in salary commitments for 2024, which would be about 28 percent lower than this year’s Opening Day salary, and lower than all but two payrolls this year (Oakland and Baltimore).

So John Sherman will have to open up the pocketbook this winter. The only question is how will J.J. Picollo spend the money? How would you invest in this club for 2024?

Edit: Forgot a few players like Hunter Dozier, Josh Staumont, and Josh Taylor, have updated to reflect those contracts.