The Cardinals have been scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, as the team had evaluators at Robert’s recent workout in the Dominican Republic. It was reported last month that Robert left Cuba in November to pursue a career in Major League Baseball and he has since established residency in Haiti, as per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.
As one scout tells Goold, the “floodgates have opened” on the Cardinals’ international signing processes. The Cards have already far exceeded their spending pool limit for the 2016-17 July 2 international signing period, and also added such non-pool players as the recently-signed Jose Adolis Garcia. It’s no surprise, therefore, that St. Louis is exploring yet another highly-touted star in Robert while they still can.
Robert has yet to be declared a free agent by MLB, and if that designation comes before June 15, the Cards still have a chance at landing the 19-year-old outfielder, who is subject to pool limits due to his age. If Robert isn’t a free agent by June 15, however, then he will become part of the next international signing class that opens on July 2. That would take the Cardinals (as well as the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Padres, Reds and Royals) out of the running for Robert’s services, as they would be limited to spending no more than $300K on any international prospect as punishment for exceeding their pool number.
Needless to say, Robert will command far beyond that $300K figure given the eye-popping early reports on his talent. One NL international scouting director tells Sanchez that Robert is second only to Shohei Otani on the list of best international talents in baseball, describing the 19-year-old as “a five-tool guy that can be in the big leagues soon.” An international scouting director for an AL team goes even further, calling Robert “the best player on the planet, and that’s no exaggeration.”
Eight teams (the Cubs, Dodgers and Royals, as well as the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees) are currently under the $300K limit for past excesses of the spending cap, with the latter five teams regaining their full spending eligibility on July 2. So Robert would have a larger market for his services if he is named a free agent sooner rather than later, not to mention the fact that he is likely to score a bigger contract while the old international signing rules are still in place. The new rules, as negotiated in the new collective bargaining agreement, place a stricter signing cap on international players and go into effect for the coming July 2 class.