Dean Taylor: As we know, the initial group of free agent pitchers this year wasn't as strong as it has been in years past. Free agent markets tend to seek their own level, and the fact that we are in February with several pitchers and players still unsigned is a good indication of the overall market.
JTROYALS: Mr. Taylor, thank you for your time today. The front office on both the baseball and marketing side of the organization has brought back class to the Kansas City Royals. Can you tell us about the details of your daily tasks?
Taylor: Thanks for your kind comments. My daily tasks really vary based on the calendar year. At the moment, I am still concentrating on salary arbitration issues, which we hope to wrap up by the end of the week. Next week our baseball operations staff will be headed to Surprise, Ariz., where we will be evaluating our club and preparing for the opening of the season. In April and May, our focus will shift to preparation for the June First-Year Player Draft.
royalsrok: What is the biggest priority for the Royals this season?
Taylor: We need to continue to improve the organization both on and off the field. On the field, we need to continue to improve our pitching (our team ERA dropped by more than a full point in 2007) and our young players need to continue to improve offensively. Off the field, we need to continue to build a model organization that will attract the best scouts and player development people in the game. In short, our goal is to restore the great tradition this organization enjoyed in the 1970's and 1980's.
rereit: How much active recruiting are you doing in Japan now that Trey Hillman is on board?
Taylor: One of our goals is to continue to improve our international scouting program, and Trey's presence with the Royals will certainly enhance our ability to compete in signing players from the Pacific Rim. As you probably know, he played an instrumental role in the signing of Yasuhiko Yabuta.
tim_a: Hello Mr. Taylor and thank you for doing this chat. For a long time it has been a dream of mine to work in a baseball front office. With no actual experience in baseball, what is the best way to help reach my dream?
Taylor: There is probably no one correct answer to your question, Tim. I would suggest you consider obtaining a degree in Sports Administration and attending the Job Fair at the Winter Meetings. Keep working hard a whatever you are doing and someone will notice!
JTROYALS: What kind of prospect is Keaton Hayenga?
Taylor: We believe Hayenga can be one of the sleepers from the 2007 Draft. We are looking forward to seeing him healthy in 2008 and having a productive year.
roundrobin: I appreciate you and others in the Royals administration wanting to visit with us. Living in Ft. Scott and coming to over 20 games per season, I'm wondering how the renovations are coming along. Does it look like the phase for 2008 will be on time?
Taylor: It's my understanding that the renovations scheduled to be completed for Opening Day 2008 are on time. We're looking forward to those improvements and even more to the renovations for 2009!
mbm4183: Dayton Moore has said that the Royals will begin to have one of the youngest Minor League systems in baseball. When you pick No. 3 overall, does it really matter to the Royals if it is a high school or college player picked in the first round?
Taylor: Our philosophy is to take the best player available when we select, and that is the approach Deric Ladnier will take. It could be a high school, junior college or college player, depending on how the Draft unfolds.
mbm4183: Is there any chance that Mario Lisson will move to a new position this year in Double-A?
Taylor: At this point, J.J. Picollo and our player development staff are planning on keeping Lisson at third base. We feel he is athletic and has solid tools for that position.
davepond88: Do you have a guy that you really think is going to be someone special that may be beneath the radar of the Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, etc? Is there a guy you see that you just think could be a star?
Taylor: If you look at the Baseball America prospect rankings, most of our top-rated prospects are pitchers. One position player who may be somewhat under the radar is outfielder Derrick Robinson, who played most of 2007 in the Midwest League. He has excellent speed and raw tools, although his offensive game is still developing. He has a chance to be an exciting Major League player if he continues to develop as much as he did last year.
reddog68: Do you think Luke Hochevar is ready for the bigs this year?
Taylor: Obviously, Luke made a strong impression in the Major Leagues last September. He will be one of the pitchers who will get a strong look in Spring Training as a candidate for a spot in our starting rotation.
royalsrok: What kinds of things can the Royals do to be competitive against bigger market teams?
Taylor: We really can't control what the big market teams do. We must continue to work toward our goal of making our scouting and player development departments the best in baseball, thereby continually producing quality Major League players for our fans to enjoy.
reddog68: Will Billy Butler be the first baseman this season?
Taylor: Trey Hillman's approach will be to get Butler's bat in the lineup as much as possible, either at first base or as the designated hitter. Ross Gload also should see quite a bit of playing time at first base, and we are hopeful that Ryan Shealy can rebound to his 2006 performance level and make a contribution as well.
Thanks to everyone for participating. I'm sorry we couldn't get to more questions. Thanks for your support as we prepare for 2008 -- pitchers and catchers report in eight days!