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Royals' Payroll Drops As Future Brightens

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As Will McDonald wrote last week, the Royals recently enjoyed their best 11 days since 1985, signing decent players to reasonable contracts, miraculously shedding Gil Meche's $12 million salary, and being recognized for having the best farm system in the game.

Meanwhile, Royals Authority's Craig Brown has crunched the numbers and concluded that the Royals' Opening Day payroll will come in just north of $33 million, the lowest in the majors and their lowest since 2000.

Oh, and by the way ... This is a really really really good thing, leaving plenty of room in the budget for signing draft picks and international free agents (which, frankly, I recommended years ago, especially when Gil Meche was signed).

Will general manager Dayton Moore maintain his suddenly thrifty ways?

As we get closer to the actual Opening Day, the fear is still there that GMDM could waste spend some of his surplus on another pitcher, like Kevin Millwood.  Even though he’s gone on the record stating he’s 99.9 percent certain the Royals personnel is set as we head to Surprise, GMDM hasn’t always been truthful.  There will be pressure from fans and from suits within baseball to elevate the payroll… Because believe me, this payroll will be in the news in another month and a half.  The media in New York and Boston will have a field day and trot out the usual Kansas City Cliches.  Hopefully, GMDM can ignore the pressure and keep his focus on building the team for the future.

Pressure from fans? Maybe a little.

Pressure from "suits in baseball"? Most of the suits in baseball will be thrilled if the Royals keep their payroll below $35 million.

And the media in Kansas City is a collective pussycat compared to the lions and tigers in the big cities.

If there's any pressure at all, it's likely to come from the Players Association, which understandably takes a dim view of franchises that benefit from revenue-sharing (as the Royals do) but don't plow those monies back into payroll.

Fortunately, while teams are supposed to spend those monies, they're not required to spend them on payroll. As long as they're spending it "to improve the team," there's not a lot the union can do.

Also, this is probably just a one- or two-year thing. The Royals have been spending too much money for nearly 20 years, chasing .500 (and usually falling well short) when they should have been husbanding their meager financial resources and investing in their farm system.

Which is exactly what they're doing now, finally.

The Royals are going to be terrible this season, with 100 losses a distinct possibility. If they play that poorly, they'll probably sport the lowest payroll in the majors next year, too. But owner David Glass is not cheap, and the moment the club shows some signs of life -- presumably because that stellar farm system  is paying off -- Glass will probably open the wallet for a few mid-range free agents.

And for all the great work that Dayton Moore has done with the farm system, he'll then have another big test to pass. If Glass's millions aren't spent well, the Royals won't win and all those prospects will be wasted.