Bruce Levine —
Chicago (CBS) — Here are some of the biggest reasons why outfielder Luis Robert is the newest Chicago White Sox prospect.
General manager Rick Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and international scouting director Marco Paddy told their boss the 19-year-old was worth it. The White Sox introduced Robert at a press conference Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“My people said he was that good,” chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said after the press conference in passing. “That was good enough for me.”
Yes, indeed. Robert was good enough that they paid him a $26 million signing bonus and the MLB another $26 million in penalty tax just like that.
The scouting started with Paddy having watched Robert play since he was 14. The rest was the present-day scouting that Williams and Hahn did watching him play in person at group and individual team invitations.
Robert hasn’t played in almost 11 months. Therefore, the White Sox will send him back to the Dominican Republic to play in the summer league. The front office is in no hurry to rush the Cuban defector to the United States.
“That is exactly where we are at right now,” Hahn said of not moving Robert to the minor leagues yet. “I know there is a lot of excitement with this signing. We are just going to have to be patient. The reason is he has not played for almost a year now. Frankly, he has been training to be a workout warrior rather than an everyday baseball player.”
The White Sox refuse to compare Robert to any player, past or present. They do believe they have a good player coming to a stadium near you soon.
“I have seen him compared to a talent that is projected as the first pick in the country (in the amateur draft in June),” Hahn said. “I have seen him compared to major leaguers Adam Jones and Lorenzo Cain in certain publications. I prefer to stay away from individual player comps. I think that is unfair to that player. Luis Robert will become the player his tools allow him to become, as his health and development dictate.”
For now, the White Sox fan base will have to be happy with seeing him throw a 90-mph first pitch before Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Tigers.
“We feel he has the ability to become a perennial middle of the order hitter for years to come,” Hahn said. “That is an important piece to add to the organization.”
Robert was asked what he will do with his new-found riches first, which brought a cringe from Reinsdorf. As it turns out, he gave a selfless answer that made the people around him proud.
“I will buy my family a house,” Robert replied. “I will buy my uncle, who has helped so much, a house. After that, I will buy one for me. I will keep my friends close and protect myself that way.”
The deal got done because of the trust between agents Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro and Reinsdorf. The two agents had done the six-year $68-million contract for first baseman Jose Abreu before the 2014 season. The bidding was in the blind, but Reinsdorf knew he would be given a straight answer. Those conversations would include any question without bidding it up beyond the real market value that was formulated.
Robert will be paid the $26 million over four years, according to sources. Most of the payment will be paid in the first installment now. MLB will collect the entire $26 million tariff at once from the White Sox.
The agents did present Reinsdorf with two boxes of the finest Cuban cigars in the world. Estimated cost of each box? Well, it felt like $26 million each.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.