The Kansas City Royals are the kings of baseball - when it comes to paying their players.

The Royals, who finished sixth in the American League West with a 75-86 record, had the top payroll in the majors this season at $23,617,090, according to a study by management's Player Relations Committee.Kansas City spent millions last winter to sign free-agent pitchers Mark Davis and Storm Davis and that helped push its payroll to the top from a 1989 total of $17,101,047.

The World Series champion Cincinnati Reds had the 16th-highest payroll at $15,751,395.

The average baseball salary this season skyrocketed 19.8 percent to $586,816, according to a study, which was distributed Tuesday at a meeting of general managers at Scottsdale, Ariz. The study, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, includes prorated shares of signing bonuses and all earned performance bonuses, but does not include any extra money from postseason awards.

Right behind the Royals were the Boston Red Sox at $22,713,698, followed by the San Francisco Giants ($22,456,224), the Oakland Athletics ($22,274,834) and the New York Mets ($22,154,333). The Mets had the highest payroll in 1989 at $21,300,878.

At the other end, the lowest payroll belonged to the Baltimore Orioles at $8,087,702. Next-lowest was the Chicago White Sox at $11,118,810, the Seattle Mariners ($12,591,199) and the Texas Rangers ($12,753,035).

Only three teams went down from 1989 to 1990 - Los Angeles, Minnesota and Baltimore.

The study showed the sharpest increase was for players newly eligible for salary arbitration, those with between three and four years of major league service at the start of the 1990 season. Their salaries jumped 48.1 percent from $398,525 in 1989 to $590,127 in 1990.

Another large jump was for those players with between six and seven years of service, a group that includes a large number of players who signed free agent contracts following the 1989 season. Their salaries rose 33.5 percent from $753,238 to $1,005,275.

In all, baseball players were paid $448,847,050 this season, not including award bonuses, which probably will increase the total slightly. The payroll total includes $17,537,206 in termination pay - money teams gave players whom they had released.

The leader in that category was the Atlanta Braves, who gave released players $3,167,500, 22.3 percent of their total payroll of $14,188,833. Second in termination pay was Kansas City ($1,600,983), followed by San Francisco ($1,486,348), Toronto ($1,125,000), the Chicago White Sox ($1,050,281) and Seattle ($1,000,533).

The only teams with no termination pay were the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Diego Padres.

The Major League Baseball Players Association will release its own payroll study next month. Their figures will be slightly higher because they increase signing bonuses 9 percent per year over the length of contracts.

The union's 1989 average was $497,254, $7,715 more than management's figure.