White Sox eyeing newly cleared Cuban free agent Luis Robert

White Sox eyeing newly cleared Cuban free agent Luis Robert

The White Sox potentially could add another significant piece to their farm system next month after Luis Robert was officially cleared for free agency on Thursday.

The Cuban outfielder can be signed as soon as May 20 after Major League Baseball cleared him to become a free agent as part of the 2016-17 international class.

Though the White Sox have made no official comments, its believed the team intends to make a strong push for Robert’s services. While the White Sox selected three position players high in the 2016 draft and added two more in December trades, they need more talent to achieve what general manager Rick Hahn has described as a “critical mass.” Some observers believe that Robert, 19, would be a viable candidate to be the first overall pick in the amateur baseball draft were he eligible.

One rival evaluator recently said the White Sox are strong contenders for Robert. Baseball America also has linked the White Sox to Robert often the past few months.

Robert’s addition to the 2016-17 class means he can be signed under the rules of the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, which should result in a significantly better payday.

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Back in March, BA’s Ben Badler described Robert as having “a strong, lean frame at 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, a wide back and quick-twitch athleticism. A right-handed hitter with excellent bat speed and a sound swing, Robert has plus power with room to continue filling out and increase that in the future.” Because he’s 19, Robert is at an advantage over younger international prospects in that he’s physically easier to project than some of his 15- and 16-year-old counterparts.

That Robert is extremely talented and projectable could result in a shootout between teams bidding for Robert’s services without facing some of the harsher penalties that they would have had he instead been part of the 2017-18 class.

Under the rules of the old CBA, teams only pay a luxury tax for exceeding their allotted bonus pool. Current White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada was signed for $31.5 million under the rules of the old CBA by the Boston Red Sox in March 2015. The Red Sox also paid a $31.5 million tax as part of the signing.  

The White Sox have revamped their farm system over the past 10 months. All but one of their top 10 prospects according to MLB.com have been drafted or acquired in trades. But of those 10, only Moncada, Luis Alexander Basabe and Zack Collins are position players. The team also selected outfielders Alex Call and Jameson Fisher with their third- and fourth-round selections in the draft.

The addition of Robert could have the White Sox well on their way in what Hahn has said will be a long and, at times, painful rebuilding process.

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

That the White Sox lost their fourth consecutive game doesn’t change the big picture plans of the franchise, which probably — but not definitely — will involve making at least one trade before the end of July.

Before the White Sox lost, 6-5, to the New York Yankees Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field, general manager Rick Hahn met with the media and delivered the same message he’s had since trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in December. The White Sox are open for business, and would like to make a number of moves to further bolster their farm system, but won’t make a trade if they don’t receive what they view to be a fair return.

“Would I be surprised (if we didn’t make a trade)? No, because I try not to be surprised by the dynamics of this market,” Hahn said. “Would I be mildly disappointed? Sure. We are here to try to improve this club.

“We feel we have certain first and desirable players that would help other clubs and may fit better on their competitive windows then they do on ours right now. And we intend to be active each day in trying to further accomplish what we set out to do a year ago at this time.

“But do we have to do it? No. That would be using an artificial spot on the calendar to force decision-making. That would be the last thing we need to do. We need to take a long term view of what we are trying to accomplish.”

Hahn didn’t name names, but Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson could be short-term fixes for contending clubs. Jose Quintana, who will start Tuesday against the Yankees, remains the team’s most valuable trade chip despite a 4.69 ERA that sits over run higher than his career average.

Frazier homered Monday and entered the game hitting .262/.351/.524 since Memorial Day. Cabrera similarly has found success after a slow start, slashing a healthy .324/.375/.482 in his previous 34 games before picking up two hits in four at-bats Monday. And Robertson, who’s been linked to the relief-starved Washington Nationals for months, has 41 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings with 11 saves.

“We want to be able to do as much as we can in our power to get this team to where it needs to be,” Hahn said. “Yes, there’s an element of competitiveness involved in that. There’s an element of patience involved in that. But at the end of the day, we have to — we get paid to be prudent in our decision making. We have to make the right decision.”

In the meantime, the White Sox looked the part of a rebuilding team with the worst record in the American League on Monday. Starter David Holmberg struggled, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings — but only two of those runs were earned thanks to errors by Holmberg, Frazier and Matt Davidson.

As the Yankees took advantage of those miscues with three runs in both the fourth and sixth innings, Jordan Montgomery retired nine consecutive White Sox batters and went on to cruise with eight strikeouts over seven innings. The White Sox – as they’ve done quite a bit this year – still showed fight late, battling back in the ninth inning.

Tim Anderson ripped a three-run home run in the ninth inning off Yankees left-hander Chasen Shreve to bring the White Sox within two. Joe Girardi quickly turned to Aroldis Chapman, who allowed a run when Jose Abreu doubled home Melky Cabrera. But the tying run was stranded on second when Avisail Garcia grounded out and Frazier flew out to end the game.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Top pick Jake Burger can't wait to someday take a bite out of Chicago; When will Sox trades begin?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Top pick Jake Burger can't wait to someday take a bite out of Chicago; When will Sox trades begin?

After taking batting practice for the first time with the White Sox, number-one pick Jake Burger sat down with Chuck Garfien to talk about getting drafted by his favorite team, what it was like getting a phone call from Paul Konerko, why he wants to be a leader like Jonathan Toews, playing on Team USA with Seth Beer and more.  

Then CSN's Dan Hayes joins Garfien to discuss the return of Carlos Rodon, when the White Sox might start making trades, and Rick Renteria's short temper with umpires.   

Listen here to ketchup with top prospect Jake Burger: