White Sox and Cardinals fans will be on high alert this weekend as Cuban outfielder Luis Robert becomes eligible to sign with a major-league organization.
Robert, 19, was declared a free agent in April but has spent the waiting period fielding offers from the teams that saw him in showcases and private workouts in the Dominican Republic.
Scouting reports grade Robert, a right-handed hitter, high for speed and power. He had played in Cuba’s Serie Nacional with Ciego de Avila since he was 16 before leaving the country this winter.
Ben Badler of Baseball America has been following Robert’s journey to a major-league club closely, and he reported Thursday that the Sox and Cardinals are believed to be the most likely landing spots for Robert. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan echoed that the two teams are the favorites and cited sources who indicated Robert was likely to sign soon after he is eligible.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn has been tight-lipped when it comes to Robert and the workout he had for club officials, and he said Friday he wouldn’t have anything to add until an official signing was announced.
But it’s clear Robert would fit into the club’s rebuilding scheme, and Hahn has indicated the Sox would spend money when the time was right.
“I certainly understand why people would believe we would be in the mix given how nicely he could conceivably fit with not only in (our) rebuild but our history with similar such players,” Hahn said last week. “I expect the bidding will be extremely robust. He’s an extremely talented young man who is going to have an impact (whoever) he winds up joining.”
Passan said speculation has been that Robert could command a signing bonus of upward of $20 million, and any team would have to pay double the bonus because of an overage tax. For example, when Yoan Moncada signed with the Red Sox, his bonus was $31.5 million, but the Red Sox ended up paying $63 million.
The White Sox also wouldn’t be able to sign an international amateur player for more than $300,000 for the next two years if they sign Robert, a penalty for going over their allotted pool.
Hahn noted the Robert situation is special because new collective bargaining agreement rules put a cap on spending on international amateurs. Those rules go into effect after this signing period, which ends June 15.
The Sox have a long history with Cuban players, starting with Minnie Minoso and extending to Jose Abreu and Moncada today. But it’s unclear if that would have any sway with Robert, as negotiations often just go to the highest bidder.
Abreu said Friday through a Sox interpreter that he knows Robert is “a kid with a lot of talent.”
“I’ve never met him, but I know he’s a very good player,” Abreu said. “I’ve seen some videos about him, and he looked great. And I would like the opportunity to play with him.
“I would like that. But that’s his decision.”
Abreu went through a similar process before…