TODAY: The Reds likely won’t end up with Robert, president of baseball operations Dick Williams suggested in comments to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Per Williams, the price is “moving beyond something that we are able to do.” While the club does indeed have interest, says its top baseball decisionmaker, “there’s a certain amount beyond which a franchise in our market just can’t afford.”
YESTERDAY: The White Sox and Cardinals are seen as the two likeliest organizations to land standout Cuban youngster Luis Robert, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Sources say the same to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
That’s not to say that other teams aren’t still involved in pursuit of the 19-year-old phenom, who will officially be eligible to sign this weekend. He will need to ink a deal by June 15th if he wishes to avoid the hard spending caps that will be instituted for the next July 2nd signing period — which seems a certainty at this point. Passan, in fact, suggests that Robert has already selected a team and will sign soon after he is eligible. Furthermore, he cites three sources in stating that the “suggested floor” when teams began submitting bids for Robert was $20MM — a sum that would be accompanied a 100 percent luxury tax.
Among the others that have been tied to Robert are the Reds, Astros, Athletics, and Padres. Neither the Nationals nor the Braves appear to be in pursuit, per Badler, despite going well over their own allocations. Those organizations have taken close looks at the intriguing prospect and have already accepted the maximum penalties for overshooting their pool allocations.
As Badler explains, the Cards are in a somewhat unique situation because of their lack of draft picks this year. (The club’s top three selections are gone due to the signing of Dexter Fowler and the Astros database access scandal.) That leaves the club with a large war chest with which to work internationally.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have not yet exceeded their 2016-17 pool, meaning they could avoid a two-year ban on $300K+ signings if they don’t get Robert. But Chicago is obviously focused on accumulating high-upside young talent that’s nearing readiness, and Robert is closer to the majors than the typical sixteen-year-old international signee. Notably, per Badler, the club hasn’t lined up deals with high-bonus talent for the ensuing signing period — perhaps suggesting that the organization is eyeing a move on Robert.
Whichever way Robert goes, Passan writes, it’ll be the end of an interesting era of major Cuban signings. For one thing, the pipeline of talent will likely hew to an earlier age, particularly if there’s a continued move to improve relations between the United States and the neighboring island nation. Combined with the new rules prohibiting teams from going past their spending limits on players under 25 years of age — even if they’d be willing to pay a 100% tax on overages — there’s little prospect for another major payday unless and until the system undergoes an unexpected change.