It’s almost as if Mother Nature knew it was the day.
After a night of brutal rain that postponed the first game of a doubleheader and caused a delay of the second on Friday evening, the sun shined brightly on a clear, warm morning at Guaranteed Rate Field.
With his family and new teammate Jose Abreu, Luis Robert stepped off the top step of the dugout onto the foul territory he will eventually call home to a flurry of camera flashes and reporters, eager to get a glimpse of the newest addition to the White Sox’s increasingly bright future. Robert couldn’t have asked for a better welcoming.
The White Sox officially announced Saturday morning that 19 year-old Cuban hype-machine was officially signed to a minor league contract with a signing bonus of $26 million.
“Today’s an important day for the organization and one that marks another step forward in this process we began over a year ago,” Hahn said during a press conference to announce the signing. “In adding Luis to our organization we feel we’ve added another dynamic, potential talent to our organization.”
Indeed, they have. Robert will arguably rank as the third best prospect in the White Sox’s system, hitting .312/.402/.467 with 29 stolen bases and 82 walks during his final season with Ciego de Avila. Though Major League Baseball is an entirely different level of play, Robert possesses the raw tools and room for growth for those skills to successfully transfer to the majors in the coming seasons.
Questions were raised about the level of concern the organization has regarding the fact that Robert has not played competitive baseball in 11 months as he has been preparing for team workouts. What we must remember is, regardless of that fact, Robert is still only 19-years-old and has a long developmental path ahead of him.
“There’s still a fair amount of development for this player,” Hahn said. “This will take some time here. But with his raw set of materials and what he’s accomplished in international competition and at the highest league in Cuba at a young age, helps reinforce how you project this player to develop,” Hahn continued. “He’s obviously put together extremely well. Projecting too much addition of strength and power is unnecessary given what he already possesses. But if he continues to get stronger that will serve him well, as well.”
As far as where Robert will fit best on the field, the general consensus is still centerfield, but as Hahn has said before, development isn’t always linear. There’s room for Robert to move where the organization thinks he fits best as he progresses.
“He presents all five tools, plus power, plus speed,” Hahn said. “We think he has the ability to remain in centerfield and if for whatever reason he doesn’t wind up in the big leagues at centerfield, he certainly has enough offensive prowess to contribute strongly on either corner. It’s a rare opportunity to get a guy with this potential level of impact into the organization at only the expense of cash.”
Robert was as enthusiastic as a young player beginning his career in the majors should be on Saturday. He attributed his reasoning for choosing the South side to many things, including his Cuban heritage. Robert said that he was proud to don the same jersey as the late, great Minnie Minoso and current Cuban star Jose Abreu. “The White Sox tradition for Cuban players was something that motivated me to sign with this team. It’s something that made me feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel proud because those players were examples for us in Cuba. For me now to be here wearing the same uniform as them is a huge honor for me.”
Robert also took note of how interested the White Sox were in him, stating that they were the organization that scouted him the most. “I picked the Chicago White Sox because it was the team that scouted me most,” Robert said. “The video helps a lot but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest. That was something that made me feel good.”
Robert also put to rest the lingering confusion about how to correctly pronounce his name. “In Cuba [people] call me more like ‘Robber.’ Outside people call me ‘Robert’ with the “T” but in Cuba it’s ‘Robber,'” he said. When asked what we should call him in America, he responded “Robber.”
So, what’s next for Robert? He will leave Chicago for the Dominican Republic, where he will get his feet wet again in the Dominican Summer League. He’ll also have to get to his shopping list, which includes buying three houses; “As for what can I buy first: a house for my family, a house for my uncle and also a house for me,” Robert said.
As far as White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn goes, it was a happy ending to a stressful week. “I think it was very similar to with Abreu,” Hahn said of his anxiety about landing Robert. “I don’t know if we’ve ever said we’re getting a guy no matter what, but we were prepared to be aggressive here and were comfortable up to the $26 million bonus we gave plus the similar amount in taxed that we wound up paying as a result of the deal.”
Hahn gave many other members of the White Sox organization credit for helping make this day possible, including Director of International Scouting, Marco Paddy. “Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization. Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”
Rest well, South siders. We have more than just an Instagram photo now. We have ink.