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.

Jesus Luzardo beats Marlins in salary arbitration

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Pitcher Jesus Luzardo became the second player in two days to beat the Miami Marlins in salary arbitration and was awarded $2.45 million.

Miami had argued for $2.1 million during a hearing Thursday before a panel of John Stout, Melinda Gordon and Richard Bloch.

AL batting champion Luis Arraez, an All-Star infielder acquired by the Marlins from Minnesota last month, was awarded a $6.1 million salary on Thursday rather than the team’s $5 million figure.

Luzardo, a 25-year-old left-hander, was 4-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts last year, striking out 120 and walking 35 in 100 1/3 innings. He is 13-18 with a 3.59 ERA in 45 starts and 16 relief appearances over four big league seasons.

Luzardo made $715,000 last season and was eligible for arbitration for the first time. He can become a free agent after the 2026 season.

Players have won two of three decisions this year, with about 20 more scheduled for hearings.

Seattle defeated Diego Castillo in the first decision this year on Wednesday, and the relief pitcher will get a raise to $2.95 million rather than his request of $3,225,000.

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose case was argued Monday.