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.
Despite dealing with back trouble for five years, Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers recently made his first ever trip to the disabled list. Then he made another trip there. All of it has him contemplating his future. As he tells Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, his baseball future may be a short one if his health doesn’t improve:
“I want to get back this year to help the team and for me to be healthy,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m thinking more long-term about being able to play more years.
“Because if I have to deal with this next year again? That’ll probably be it. My contract will be over, that’ll probably be it. I won’t play any more. If I can heal it and my body feels good? Now I can go out there and do the things I can do. Then I’ll keep playing.”
Backs are one of those things that don’t get better as you get older. At least not without a lot of work and effort and good luck. Gonzalez is 35 now, so he’ll need all of that to keep playing beyond his current deal.
Kyle Schwarber broke into the bigs in 2015 with a big bat. After missing almost all of the last season with an injury, he reemerged as a postseason hero, posting a .971 OPS in the World Series. As 2017 began he was supposed to be one of the key parts of a potent Cubs offense.
Then the baseball games actually started and he has hit a mere .171/.295/.378. Indeed, he has the lowest batting average among qualified MLB hitters in 2017. Given that he has very little if any defensive value, he has been a significant drag on the Cubs, who are just a single game over .500.
The Cubs are also putting Jason Heyward on the disabled list, so the outfield is a bit of a mess these days. Lucky for them, they’re only trailing the Brewers by a game and a half.