The White Sox announced Monday that they’ve reinstated center fielder Luis Robert from the 60-day injured list. Outfielder/first baseman Gavin Sheets was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte in order to open a spot on the active roster. Minor league outfielder Luis Gonzalez was released in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
Gonzalez’s release may initially surprise some fans, given his standing as one of the organization’s 10 to 20 best prospects over the past few years, but he’s slated to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, James Fegan of The Athletic tweets. Injured players can’t be placed on outright waivers, so the team’s only recourse was to either release Gonzalez or add him to the MLB roster and place him on the Major League 60-day injured list. The Sox will opt for the former path and presumably look to re-sign him to a new minor league contract, as is fairly common in these instances.
As for the dynamic Robert, he’ll return after missing more than three months due to a Grade 3 hip flexor sustained back in early May. The injury initially called for a rehab period of 12 to 16 weeks, and he’ll return on the shorter end of that timetable. Robert appeared in a dozen minor league rehab games — four in Class-A Advanced and eight in Triple-A — and notched a combined .268/.388/.390.
Robert, 24, won a Gold Glove and finished second to Kyle Lewis in American League Rookie of the Year voting. He’s played in 81 big league games to this point in his young career, batting .259/.320/.444 with 12 home runs, 17 doubles, a triple and 13 steals (in 16 attempts). Strikeouts have been an issue (30.6 percent), but Robert has been regarded as an elite prospect since he left Cuba and signed with the Sox for a $26MM bonus (that came with a $26MM overage penalty for Chicago, whose bonus pool was just north of $2.9MM at that point). He then inked a six-year, $50MM contract extension with a pair of club options before even suiting up for his first big league game.
The White Sox lost both Robert and Eloy Jimenez early in the 2021 season, but they’ve nevertheless been able to steamroll a feeble American League Central, building a 10.5-game lead over the second-place Indians as of this writing. With Robert and Jimenez now back from injury and Craig Kimbrel at the back of the bullpen, the South Siders are as strong as they’ve been at any point this season. The division title has long looked like a foregone conclusion, but the return of their promising young outfielders and a few key deadline pickups have better positioned the Sox as a postseason threat.