By Cat Garcia @TheBaseballGirl
“It’s gotta fit for the long term,” White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn told the media in Seattle over the weekend.
These are words that White Sox fans who have seen the comings and goings of patchwork-type players the past few seasons have longed to hear from this organization’s leader.
These days, the White Sox have arguably been on the forefront of the many rebuilding teams in baseball. But as of Saturday, the word “arguably” can easily be taken out of the discussion. As the mania that was the Luis Robert sweepstakes began this past Saturday, the first day the Cuban prospect was eligible to sign, the White Sox quieted rumors that they were simply “in the mix” for Robert, quickly by snatching up the 19-year-old just half a day into his signing eligibility period. Now, suddenly, the White Sox rebuild is being taken even more seriously than before. Quickly signing Robert was the final move they needed to make to prove to baseball that they’re all in.
With everything happening so fast, however, some folks are left with questions about the young Cuban who will cost the White Sox around $50 million when all is said and done. Let’s take a look at who exactly the White Sox are getting and what it means for the organization now, as well as in the future.
How did the White Sox land Robert?
Robert was a hot commodity from the start. Not only do we know this based on the pure projections of what Robert will become, but also because one of the teams in the top bidding spots with the White Sox was reportedly the St. Louis Cardinals—an organization that could be referred to as the most powerful franchise in National League baseball.
Having a total of 17 Cuban players in franchise history, including the late Minnie Minoso, the White Sox have appealed to those coming to the major leagues. The White Sox reportedly made a pitch to Robert that included words from fellow countryman Jose Abreu, Spanish-speaking manager Rick Renteria, and number one prospect and former teammate of Robert’s, Yoan Moncada. The ability to feel not only comfortable in your clubhouse environment, but also welcomed with open arms is invaluable to the decision making process for a player and the White Sox certainly catered to that when it came to pitching Robert.
The inner workings of international signings can be tricky, though, and when a club exceeds their spending limit they are subject to fines. Though both the White Sox and the Cardinals would have been over their IFA spending limit and subject to fines, the White Sox had a bit more leeway in terms of how much extra they would have had to pay to acquire Robert than the Cardinals did, likely giving the White Sox a bit more of the upper hand in the deal.
What does this mean for the organization’s future?
The White Sox now have the two highest IFA bonus recipients (under the current rules) in the MLB in Moncada, the highest, and Robert. The days of exorbitant spending on international prospects came to a close with Robert as the market under the new CBA will have a hard cap on teams international spending. But, looking forward for this organization, Robert will likely rank as the number-three prospect in the organization behind Moncada and hard-throwing Michael Kopech. Adding Robert now solidifies the strength of the White Sox system, as well as gives them a bit more flexibility in terms of pieces they’re looking to trade at the trade deadline or in future offseasons. With their new, strong system in place, the prices likely just went up on trade candidates such as David Robertson and Jose Quintana, meaning that the White Sox will now be able to maximize the return that they’ll receive for these players as well as give them the ability to say no to certain offers. Stashing prospects and helping their developmental path under the spotlight the White Sox organization is currently under helps makes many of the young prospects they have stashed away strong trade bait for when they do need a plug and play option at the major league level. The acquisition of Robert has filled in the circle for this organization, and did so in more ways than one.
Where does Robert profile best?
Robert’s physical profile is comparable to Moncada’s. Moncada is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, while Robert is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Their tools are a bit different, however. Moncada profiles mainly as a raw power hitter while Robert is known for his contact ability and plus speed. It’s been noted that Robert is likely to be able to develop plus power, and right now has some strikeout issues—something Moncada deals with as well. What must be kept in mind with Robert is that he is still young, likely to change physically and fill out more, and will be able to hone his skills during his minor-league development. Robert man not see big league time until he is 22 years-old, in the 2020 season, which gives him plenty of time to get rounded out. The biggest plus for Robert is his speed, which has only improved, and though his arm is not particularly strong, he profiles well as a centerfielder due to his sheer ability to cover ground in the outfield. According to MLB Pipeline, Robert is ranging 50 to 55 on the 20-80 scale in his hit, arm, and fielding tools, making him average to slightly above average in those areas. MLB Pipeline has put a 60 on his power—the same as Moncada—and a 70, which is considered well above average, on his speed.
The future is bright for the White Sox, and though many Sox fans have felt that way before, this time the organization is investing in their distant future, and shaping it themselves, rather than trying to puzzle-piece or “patchwork” together teams that seem as though they should make contenders on paper, but fail to transfer on the field. With the right blend of young players that display different strengths, a strong minor league system rich with pitching prospects, two of the best young Cuban players in their system, and a fresh new leader in the dugout in Rick Renteria, things are looking a bit more solid in terms of the future on the South Side. And they’re only likely to get better.