Nineteen-year-old outfielder Luis Robert is the top international talent that is available on the amateur market and, after recently being declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, has already begun hosting private workouts with interested teams, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The Athletics hosted a workout for Robert last Friday that was attended by GM David Forst, according to Badler, and Reds GM Dick Williams was on hand to watch him this past Tuesday in a workout. Prior to that, he’d worked out for the Astros, Badler adds.
Badler notes that Robert’s camp is also expected to set up private workouts with the Padres, Cardinals and White Sox in the coming weeks. It seems that of those three clubs, the heavy-spending Padres are up first, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports (via Twitter) that Robert will work out with the Pads tomorrow. To this point, the Padres have paced all 30 teams in terms of international spending during the current signing period, as their total investment (including luxury tax penalties for shattering their allotted bonus pool) is in the vicinity of $80MM.
The willingness to spend at such an aggressive level may be key for any club that wishes to sign Robert, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes in his latest Inside Baseball column that one source who closely follows the international market believes Robert already has a $25MM offer “in hand,” though Heyman notes that others have suggested to him no offers have been made to this point. There could, of course, be some semantics at play there in terms of what constitutes a formal offer. A price tag in the vicinity of $25MM for Robert would come with a 100 percent luxury tax attached to it, meaning he’d cost any team that signed him at that rate a total of roughly $50MM.
As Badler writes, though Robert has been declared a free agent, he won’t formally be cleared to sign until May 20. In the interim, he’ll host at least one more open showcase for teams, in addition to the remaining private workouts his camp will orchestrate.
It’s worth noting that of the teams linked to Robert, only the White Sox have yet to exceed their current international bonus pool. In other words, while other clubs would essentially only be parting with money in order to sign Robert, the ChiSox would need to determine if Robert is worth handcuffing themselves in each of the next two international signing periods; should the Sox decide to exceed their pool in the eleventh hour — the current signing period ends on June 15 — they’d be unable to sign any individual player for more than $300K in either the 2017-18 or 2018-19 signing periods.
In a similar vein, teams that are still in the metaphorical “penalty box” for crushing their allotted pools in previous signing periods won’t be able to compete for Robert’s services, as they’re each capped at that same $300K figure on individual signings. That eliminates the Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays, Rays, Royals and Diamondbacks from serving as serious competition in the Robert market.
Though Robert is just 19 years of age, he’d already blossomed into a star, hitting a ridiculous .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers, 12 doubles, a pair of triples and 11 steals over the life of 53 games (232 plate appearances) in his final pro season in the Cuban National Series. Scouting reports on Robert note that he’s capable of playing center field right now, though he may ultimately wind up in a corner. Badler has previously written that both his bat speed and raw power are plus, and Heyman’s above-linked piece offers a number of favorable reviews of Robert’s skill set. Additionally, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has previously spoken to a number of international scouting directors who have heaped praise onto Robert, calling him the game’s best international prospect behind Japanese phenom Shohei Otani and labeling him one of the most talented young players on the planet.