White Sox Enthusiasm Grows With Robert Extension

The White Sox locked up a core piece in Luis Robert for as many as eight years.

Bruce Levine
January 02, 2020 - 8:21 pm
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(670 The Score) For the second time in the past 10 months, the White Sox on Thursday made a big commitment to a talented youngster who hasn't played in the big leagues yet but whom they believe has superstar potential.

Chicago signed 22-year-old outfielder Luis Robert to a six-year, $50-million contract that includes a pair of $20-million team options on the back end of the deal as well. The deal can keep Robert with the White Sox through the 2027 season. It was similar to the six-year, $43-million deal that left fielder Eloy Jimenez signed last March. That contract also included two team options on the back end.

"These things start with having that level of talent in your organization," general manager Rick Hahn said. "We would not try to force this kind of framework on a fit we don't really want to be on the next several years. You have to have the right players available, and they have to be open to this concept. Those things now have aligned for us over the 10 months. We are willing to make these types of commitments when we find the right player with the right makeup -- someone we project to be the potential part of a championship core."

Related: Bernstein: Luis Robert deal is more good business for White Sox

Robert is ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. With service time consideration now moot, Robert is set to be the White Sox's starting center field on Opening Day.

Robert hit .328 with 32 homers, 92 RBIs, 36 stolen bases and a 1.001 OPS in 122 games across three levels in the minor leagues in 2019. He ended the season at Triple-A Charlotte, where he hit .297 with a .974 OPS. 

"I am still working on all the aspects of the game," Robert said on a conference call through translator Billy Russo. "When I talked to Jose Abreu, he told me he will have some things for me and advice in a few specific areas that I will need to work on for this year and later in my career."

Jimenez, 23, had a quality rookie season, with 31 homers, 79 RBIs and an .828 OPS in 122 games. The White Sox believe Robert can make a similar strong impression early.

"We think the world of Luis and his upside," Hahn said. "We are willing to invest in that prior to seeing him at the big league level, just like we did with Eloy a few months back. Both of these deals are about keeping this core in place through the long term."

Robert is confident he's ready in all phases of the game. He already experienced a defensive adjustment in center field when he was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, which featured a lively ball to chase down.

"The baseballs were a lot different," Robert said. "Some balls went further than I thought, so I misjudged them. I worked hard to make the adjustment and by the end of the season, I felt comfortable taking a good jump and taking the best routes to get to the ball. I just don't see any major adjustment I will have to make to feel comfortable in the majors."

The White Sox have been arguably the most active team in the game since free agency opened. They've signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, left-hander Dallas Keuchel and left-hander Gio Gonzalez. They also have agreed to a one-year deal with designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, though it's not official yet. They also signed Abreu to an extension and traded for right fielder Nomar Mazara.

"The perception is we are a desirable destination," Hahn said in response to a question about the new view of the White Sox organization. "That is not only because of the city we have but how we have positioned this club for the foreseeable future. Guys seem to want to be a part of that. That is a good spot for us to be in. It is even moved ahead of the process a year ago, when we had to layout to free agents how this thing could come together. Now they can see it with their own eyes the way our transactions have maybe furthered that process along. There seems to be enthusiasm among the fan base and the players."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.