Nineteen-year-old outfield prospect Luis Robert left his native Cuba last November, and began the process of being cleared to be signed as a free agent. That process is over now, and the bidding war for Robert can commence.
That he’s cleared now is a boon to him and a handful of teams as there was some speculation at the time he left Cuba that he might not be cleared until after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement provisions regarding international free agents went into effect in July. If that had happened, it would’ve imposed greater penalties on teams which had already spent a lot on international players. Now, however, Robert’s market will be more wide open. To date, there have been reports that the A’s, Astros, Cardinals, White Sox, Padres and Reds are among the teams with the strongest interest in signing him.
Just about any team can sign Robert before July 2, and whoever signs him will be subject to various penalties if they have already exceeded their international bonus pool. If he signs after July 2, however, teams which have exceeded their bonus pools will only be able to offer him a $300,000 bonus, effectively taking them out of the running. This will create a big, big incentive for teams which have exceeded their pools to offer big money now, pay the penalty but get their man.
Robert has been described by one talent evaluator as “the best player on the planet, and that’s no exaggeration.” Well, OK, but having hit .393 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases in Cuba’s Serie Nacional last season, he’s been compared favorably to Yoenis Cespedes. And he’s only 19, which means his ceiling could be way, way higher.