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.