KC Royals: Releasing C Tony Cruz Clarifies Payroll Picture

 KC Royals began this winter wondering if general manager Dayton Moore was serious about cutting payroll. His recent non-tender decisions and choosing to let Edinson Volquez and Kendrys Morales walk without qualifying offers make it clear Moore indeed is trying to cut player costs.

The Kansas City Royals announced Wednesday that they requested unconditional release waivers on 30-year-old catcher Tony Cruz. The Royals acquired Cruz on December 2, 2015 in return for then 19-year-old shortstop Jose Martinez.

At the time, I believed the trade meant Kansas City would non-tender Drew Butera. Instead, Butera enjoyed his best season in MLB while slashing .285/.328/.480 in 133 at bats. Meanwhile, Cruz spent most of the year at AAA Omaha. But, this season Dayton Moore apparently decided he couldn’t afford to spend around $1 million to park a third catcher at Omaha in 2017.

The decision to release Cruz comes after the KC Royals non-tendered pitcher Dillon Gee, reliever Tim Collins, outfielder/1B Daniel Nava, and now Tony Cruz—all of whom were arbitration-eligible in 2017. By letting all four go, Dayton Moore saved around $7.5 million in payroll. Add in his choice to decline the team’s half of Edinson Volquez‘s $10 million mutual option, and allowing Kendrys Morales enter free-agency without making a qualifying offer, and it’s pretty clear that Moore needs to economize.

Earlier this fall I wrote how the Kansas City Royals non-tender decisions could provide a clue if Moore was serious about cutting payroll. Now we have our answer.

KC Royals Current Payroll Situation

These moves leave the KC Royals with around $99.6 million committed to 2017 according to Cot’s Contracts. The team signed Drew Butera to a two year, $3.8 million last week. Since his deal calls for a $1.5 million salary in 2017, that brings the total to $101.1.

However, Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and Jarrod Dyson still remain unsigned though the team holds arbitration rights to all four. MLB Trade Rumors estimates signing these players will cost $29.3 million in arbitration. Throw in three league minimum contracts to fill out the 25-man roster, and the Kansas City Royals are looking at beginning the 2017 season with around $131.8 million in payroll.

That’s just about the same as Cot’s $131.48 player cost estimate for Opening Day 2016.

Moore could achieve his goal to cut player costs by signing Danny Duffy to a long-term contract. Presumably, the Royals would back-loaded such a deal to provide salary relief in 2017.  However, as it now stands, Moore would be counting on essentially the same core that failed in 2016 while subtracting Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez.

I suppose the front office could hope that better health and increased contributions from young players will make up the nine games that KC needed to earn a wild card in 2016. But, I’d be surprised to see Moore make such a passive decision.

I think the Kansas City Royals will enter the trade market after the Winter Meetings in order to add a left-handed bat and a starting pitcher. Their best trade bait is reliever Wade Davis.

This article originally appeared on