James Gordon | May 20, 2017
The White Sox furthered their rebuild earlier today with the signing of top Cuban prospect, 19-year-old Luis Robert. The deal was announced by Ken Rosenthal, who claimed the initial deal would be worth more than $25 million.
Sources: #WhiteSox closing in on Luis Robert. Deal expected to be more than $25M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 20, 2017
Jeff Passan later confirmed the report and added that the total outlay after taxes and all came out to $45+ million. Quite the contract for just a 19-year-old kid!
Sources: Cuban OF Luis Robert has agreed to terms on a deal with Chicago White Sox worth slightly above $25M. Total outlay after tax: $45M+.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 20, 2017
After a brief bidding war with the Cardinals, the White Sox got away with Robert. However, the shocking thing about the signing was that the Sox didn’t offer the higher bid. Reports say that the Cardinals offered Robert the higher deal, on the upward of $30 million, but what had drawn Robert to the White Sox was outside of money. According to Sox insider Dan Hayes, what really drew Robert in was a video presentation including manager Rick Renteria and fellow Cubans Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu. The presentation helped Robert recognize the long Cuban history within the South Side and the lingual freedom he’ll have in the clubhouse, as Renteria is the only manager in the majors who is fluent in both English and Spanish. In a case that rarely occurs with international agents, circumstances other than money were the deciding factors in this signing.
This is a colossal move forward for the White Sox, who have needed offensive depth in their farm system. Although they have MLB’s top-rated prospect in Yoan Moncada, the Sox’ farm has been dry of any prominent outfield bats. Robert, who hit for a stat line of .401/.526/.687 last year in Cuba’s national league, while hitting 12 homers and 40 RBI as he struck out less than he walked (38 BB/ 30 K). One NL scout notes that agility like that gives him a 70 on the 20-80 scale for his speed after he ran a 6.2 in the 60-yard dash. Just to put that into some perspective, Yoan Moncada, who was highly praised for his speed and base-stealing ability, ran a 6.56 in the 60-yard dash. The same scout said that Robert grades out as a 70 for his power, which makes him an offensive monster with a destructive combo of power and speed. His fielding ability hasn’t been rated as high, but his speed/power make him good enough where the Sox won’t need to worry about his fielding initially.
Since Robert is only 19 years old, he will likely remain in the Sox’ minor league system for at least a couple of years. Some signs point to Robert beginning his Sox career in the Arizona League, but he’ll most likely spend most of the season in Low-A Kannapolis. While that is the most likely destination for Robert, if he shows the type of play in Low-A that he had shown in Cuba, he could potentially spend some time in Advanced-A Winston-Salem. Whatever the case, Robert should be given as much time to develop in the minors as possible, especially since the Sox shouldn’t need him until the next time they’re contending (2019-2020).