The White Sox have reportedly already added a first-round draft pick and it isn’t even June.
According to multiple reports, the team’s rebuild added a potential cornerstone as Cuban free agent outfielder Luis Robert has agreed to sign a deal that would force the White Sox to heavily exceed their 2016-17 international signing bonus pool.
Believed to be the equivalent of a high first-round draft pick, Robert, 19, reportedly has accepted a deal worth more than $25 million from the White Sox. Another key addition to the team’s ongoing rebuild, Robert likely would be the No. 3 prospect in an extremely talented White Sox farm system behind Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.
It is believed that the other team vying for Robert, 19, the St. Louis Cardinals, offered the outfielder more money.
While Robert’s deal is reportedly worth $25-30 million, the club’s cost will be double whatever the final amount is as they must pay an equivalent tax to Major League Baseball for going over their allotted amount.
White Sox officials didn't comment on the signing on Saturday. But shortly after word got out, the White Sox made a move that signals the Robert deal is close to final. They announced the trade of minor-league pitcher Alex Katz to the Baltimore Orioles for two international signing bonus slots worth $756,300. The move helps the club offset some of the penalty tax they will pay for exceeding their original bonus pool of $2,973,500, according to Baseball America.
By exceeding their pool, the White Sox also would forfeit the ability to sign any international amateurs for more than $300,000 in each of the next two years. But the thinking is that few international players in those upcoming classes would have the same sort of potential impact as quickly as Robert, who is more advanced than normal international prospects.
In many cases, international prospects are signed when they’re 16 or 17 years old, which means they still have a growth period left and are harder to project. At 19, Robert already stands at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds. He also is experienced, having played four seasons in the Cuban National Series. Last year, Robert his .401/.526/.687 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 232 plate appearances for Ciego de Avila.
While word of the signing didn’t leak until around 1 p.m. CST, Robert had signaled his intentions in the final hours that he indeed was headed to the White Sox. The prospect changed the avatar on his Instagram account to a new picture with him wearing a White Sox hat.
It is believed that Robert was extremely impressed by the White Sox, who made a presentation to accompany his live workout for the team. General manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Kenny Williams attended the workout. But the team also presented Robert with a video narrated in Spanish by manager Rick Renteria that included testimonials from fellow Cubans Jose Abreu and Moncada urging Robert to join them in Chicago.
Robert is yet another talented addition to a White Sox farm system that has rocketed up the rankings, according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB Pipeline, among others.
The team added Moncada and Kopech as well as No. 8 prospect Luis Basabe in a 4-for-1 deal for Chris Sale in December. A day later, the White Sox added top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez as well as Dane Dunning (who is expected to move up the charts) in exchange for Adam Eaton.
The trades netted the White Sox seven prospects and came on the heels of what looks to be a strong 2016 draft class. The White Sox added catcher Zack Collins, reliever Zack Burdi, outfielders Alex Call and Jameson Fisher, and starter Alec Hansen in the first four rounds. Before the December trades, all five were listed among Baseball America’s top-10 White Sox prospect list.