Royals’ projected 2011 payroll is $33 million (or $2 million more than Alex Rodriguez’s salary)

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Gil Meche turning down $12 million by retiring and Billy Butler signing a backloaded long-term contract leaves the Royals with very little in terms of 2011 commitments.

In fact, according to Craig Brown of Royals Authority their projected payroll barring any last-minute additions is right around $33 million. To put that in some context, consider that only the Padres and Pirates had an Opening Day payroll under $50 million last season. Oh, and Alex Rodriguez will earn $31 million from the Yankees in 2011.

Kansas City’s payroll last season was $71 million and the Royals haven’t had a payroll under $33 million since 2000. Back then their young building blocks included a 23-year-old Carlos Beltran and 26-year-olds Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Mike Sweeney.

Brown hopes that the Royals will use all the money they aren’t spending on big-league players to “be even more aggressive in Latin America,” where top prospects typically sign for around $1 million and even elite talents go for around $3 million. Right now the highest-paid Royal is closer Joakim Soria at $4 million.

Tim Tebow homered in his first at-bat with Single-A St. Lucie

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Mets minor league outfielder and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow was recently promoted from Single-A Columbia to advanced Single-A St. Lucie. Critics suggested that, because Tebow wasn’t exactly lighting up competition with Columbia, the promotion was just about marketing.

Tebow, to his credit, has gotten off to a good start with St. Lucie. In his first at-bat with his new team, he hit a two-run home run, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. The home run came on a 3-1 count against starter Junior Fernandez of the Palm Beach Cardinals. Fernandez is the Cardinals’ No. 10 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

With Columbia, Tebow was hitting a paltry .220/.311/.336 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 244 plate appearances.

Cardinals option Aledmys Diaz to Triple-A

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The Cardinals announced on Wednesday that shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been optioned to Triple-A Memphis and infielder Alex Mejia’s contract has been purchased from Memphis.

Diaz, 26, impressed last season when he posted an .879 OPS and finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year balloting. This year has been rough on Diaz, as he’s batting .260/.293/.396 with seven home runs and 20 RBI in 288 plate appearances. He’s the second major Cardinals player to get sent down to the minors along with Randal Grichuk.

Diaz was surprised by the demotion. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:

Mejia, 26, opened the season with Double-A Springfield but was promoted to Triple-A two weeks ago. With Springfield, he hit .251/.305/.366 in 251 PA. In 42 PA with Memphis, he hit .263/.333/.289.