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March 17, 1999
Interview with Herk Robinson
BP interviews the Kansas City Royals general manager
RJ: Let's start with the obvious: the trade situation with Kevin Appier.
HR: There's nothing specific with Appier yet; we haven't discussed any particular players with any of the teams that are interested. He's only had two starts so far, and there's no urgency to getting a deal done.
RJ: Is it something you hope to have wrapped up by Opening Day?
HR: To be perfectly honest, we might not trade him at all. We have to consider what the offers are, and we don't consider ourselves compelled to deal Appier if there isn't a fit somewhere.
RJ: Are you looking to acquire a single top-notch prospect, a Russ Branyan for example, or are you more interested in trading for several lesser-tier prospects in the hopes of filling more than one of the team's holes? Is there a focus on acquiring players that can fill some of the franchise's weaknesses, like shortstop?
HR: We're not sure how many players we want; it depends on which players they are, obviously; and possibly a certain pitcher or two may be what we're looking for. We would certainly like to acquire a shortstop, but it depends on what the team has to offer - it may be that they simply don't have a good shortstop prospect, and we'll have to look at other players.
RJ: Have you already targetted certain players that you're waiting for teams to bring up, or are you willing to let other teams make offers and then sift through them for players you want?
HR: We've got several players that we have a keen interest in acquiring, but as to their identity I obviously can't say.
RJ: Is Jeff King likely to be moved soon? Is there any one player on, say, the Blue Jays or Braves that you've internally decided would make you willing to trade King?
HR: Like Appier, we don't have anything specific that we're looking to do with Jeff, and while he's available, I can't even guarantee that he'll be traded at all.
RJ: Has there been any attempt to sign Johnny Damon to a long-term contract before his value skyrockets?
HR: Well, we'd certainly like to sign Damon to a deal, but I'm not sure we have the financial resources to make it happen. It isn't a high priority at this point, not with the team's own financial situation still being worked out.
RJ: Recently Ray Durham signed a four-year, twenty million dollar contract extension with the White Sox. Since Durham and Damon are roughly comparable players, and Durham has roughly an extra year of service time over Damon, has there been any thought to using that deal as a guideline to signing Damon beyond 1999?
HR: To be honest, we haven't even given preliminary consideration to what it would take to sign Damon beyond this year, so no, I can't say that there has been any discussion at all.
RJ: The success of the Royals teams of the late 70s and early 80s was in large part a result of acquiring talented players who, for whatever reason, were unable to get the opportunity to play in other organizations, guys like John Mayberry, Amos Otis, Freddie Patek, and Hal McRae. Has there been any attempt to try and duplicate that philosophy by, for example, attempting to get Daryle Ward, a fine young hitter who is stuck behind Jeff Bagwell, from the Astros, or seeing if the Yankees would trade D'Angelo Jimenez, an outstanding young shortstop who is behind both Derek Jeter and Alfonzo Soriano?
HR: I was a part of the organization when we were able to get the guys you are talking about, like Patek and Mayberry and Larry Gura. But I don't think anyone could do what we did back then anymore. The game has changed, and it wouldn't work in today's climate.
RJ: Why not?
HR: Teams now put a premium on all their top prospects, and few teams are able to give up the talent it would take to get players like that today. You just can't get it done anymore.
RJ: Finally, with the impending sale of the franchise to Miles Prentice, there have of course been rumors that your own job security may be in a precarious situation once the team is sold. Is there any sense of urgency on your part to see the team succeed this year?
HR: No, absolutely not. We'll do what we feel is best for the ballclub, as we always have, but I don't ever worry about what will happen to me.
Once again, I'd like to thank Herk Robinson for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.
Rany Jazayerli is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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