Morning, all. Hopefully nothing too crazy happened in Saturday night’s game that requires me to talk about it; I’m writing this Saturday afternoon due to having plans to attend the Chinese Cultural Festival at the Botanical Garden early on Sunday.
Anyway, I’m sure many of you have heard by now, but there has been a very large development in the situation relating to Luis Robert, the Cuban defector who is almost certainly the best international free agent we’ve seen since Yoan Moncada. I personally like him better than Lazarito, the workout tape phenom who signed with the A’s last year, and it’s a tough comparison between Robert and Kevin Maitan, the switch-hitting shortstop the Braves inked to a deal last July. Maitan at 16 playing the middle infield and Robert at 19, much closer to a finished product (though still certainly not a finished product), are two very different animals.
I wrote about Robert back during the offseason, as did Ben Markham. At the time, it was unknown if Robert would be able to sign with a big league club during this international signing period, considering the timing of his defection from Cuba and the process of establishing residency, then being officially declared a free agent.
Well, just the other day the news came down the pipe, that Robert would be allowed, in fact, to sign during this current period, which represents a serious windfall for the Cuban phenom. As I discussed in that earlier post, if Robert were to be held off from signing until after the new CBA kicks in, he would have had a different group of suitors, but under the new rules would have been limited to, at the absolute maximum, a little over $10 million. (And probably not nearly that much, considering the logistics involved of a team getting all that extra bonus money.)
However, fortunately for Robert MLB has now officially declared him a free agent, and he will be able to sign with a club as of the 20th of May. Why the 20th of May? I don’t really know, honestly, but that’s the story. It doesn’t really matter the specific date, though; the deadline was the 15th of June, and we’re well short of that.
You may have noticed the Robert-related posts get bumped to the front page yesterday; pretty much everything contained therein still applies. The Cards had already forfeited their draft picks, and so we were already living in a world where the organisation would have very, very little opportunity to add potential top-end talent come June. The list of teams potentially in on Robert still appears to be the White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Astros, and Padres. Oakland and Cincinnati are still floating around as potential destinations, but seem to be slightly longer shots, depending upon which outlet/pundit you prefer.
The good news is the Cardinals likely have the financial resources to outpunch pretty much any of those teams, should they set their minds to it. The bad news is some of those teams have been far more aggressive in trying to upgrade their clubs in recent years; the Nationals in particular have made move after move the last couple seasons to get better, while the Cardinals have held on to players they decided at some point were important, stubbornly refusing to accept sunk costs and take less than the value they arbitrarily set, often ignoring reality (see: Matt Adams in general or the refusal to move on from Jonathan Broxton or Jhonny Peralta), and allowing the team to stagnate as a result.
The Padres could be a tough competitor here as well; A.J. Preller has basically created a cottage industry of stealing Cardinal prospects at this point, so why not go one step further and grab the guy before the Redbirds can even sign him? In seriousness, though, San Diego has clearly gone all in on building through international signings, Preller’s specialty going back to his days as director of shystering with the Rangers, and Robert would represent a very attractive bet to the Padres.
There does remain, however, the simple fact that the Cardinals should be more motivated than any other club in baseball to bring Robert into the fold, considering the disadvantage they face in the draft this year. I’m sure one could scout the kid and poke holes in his game, but the fact is this is an elite talent, the likes of which you just don’t get a shot at all that often.
So what would it cost? Well, considering the somewhat limited pool of teams, as well as the fact the Yankees and Dodgers and a few other big spenders are out entirely, the cost could end up slightly depressed. However, Robert has been receiving quite a lot of hype since defecting, and with clubs desperate to spend money somewhere, anywhere to improve themselves, it could still escalate quickly.
Holy shit that was fantastic. Now I don’t have to hunt down Scotty Upshall and Jay Bouwmeester and murder them for taking dumbass penalties in a playoff game. Not to say I’m not still considering it, just that I’m no longer obligated to.
Robert likely won’t get quite as much to sign as Moncada did — $31.5 million — but he could approach that. So call it maybe $25 million. Also recall, any team signing Robert would incur a 100% tax due to being over their signing pool limit, so at that point you’re potentially talking about $50 million plus to sign a player who’s never taken an at-bat in a U.S. league. Admittedly, there’s some risk there.
Then again, we also have the fact that Robert, when signed, will immediately jump into the prospect rankings right up near the top. He’s an instant lock for top 25 lists, I believe, depending on the ranker being questioned obviously. For me, he would likely be either number one or number two in the Cards’ system instantly; my personal rankings would put him number one, but I can see why others might be less inclined to downgrade Alex Reyes.
So we’re talking about an opportunity to outright purchase a top-25 talent. Given all the prospect valuation work we’ve seen here at VEB over this most recent offseason, I think everyone should have a pretty good idea of just how valuable that can be.
Unfortunately, it will still be another month before Robert can officially sign, and he has a couple of showcases scheduled between now and then. I remain convinced, however, that Robert is such an opportunity as to represent a near-must sign for the Cardinals.
In the meantime, let’s watch Luis Robert sock some dingers! And holy batspeed, Batman.
via JDB Baseball RD: