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Royals may spend in free agency

Royals may spend in free agency

KANSAS CITY -- Just a few days ago, Royals general manager Dayton Moore was approaching the matter of free-agent spending very cautiously. Now, with the marketplace doors swinging open, he's hearing the rustle of dollar bills in his pocket.

Last year, the Royals' payroll was just under $60 million, and Moore last week had hinted that the club might stay around that financial area in 2009. Now he's talking about the possibility of an increase.

"I think we could potentially have the opportunity to improve our payroll 20 to 25 percent," he said.

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That could boost the payroll to $70 million or more.

Moore said he'll have the support of owner David Glass and club president Dan Glass if the additional outlay would bolster the Royals.

He brought up an example from last winter.

"We'll explore and see what opportunities are available to us. If there's something that makes sense for us, I know the Glasses will be very supportive," Moore said.

"As you recall, last year we were trying to acquire Torii Hunter and Jose Guillen, and if we were successful, that would have put our payroll in 2008 at about $73 million, and with 2009, the payroll would have been about $85 million with all our arbitration-eligible players. So they'll continue to support us as we look to acquire talent to improve our team."

Guillen signed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Royals, but Hunter signed with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Royals are looking for pitching plus a run-producing outfielder and a seasoned middle infielder.

The only player they lost to the free-agent market was second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who certainly would fill the latter need.

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"We're still filtering through the process and evaluating our offseason before making a decision on our plans with Grud, and he's doing the same, seeing what other opportunities are available to him," Moore said.

No surprise here, but he wasn't about to be specific about the Royals' possible interest among free agents. The big-ticket guys are probably out of range, but lower-tier free agents could spur some bids.

"We don't even know ourselves," Moore said, then added with a touch of humor: "We haven't even played the roulette game to figure out who we're going after. There's a little roulette wheel, and we'll spin it around and wherever it stops, that's who we'll go after."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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