After 105 minor league homers, 27-year-old Clint Robinson was promoted to the majors by the Royals for the first time Thursday.
Robinson, a 25th-round pick out of Troy University in 2007, has been tearing up the minors for 2 1/2 years now. In 2010, he hit .335/.410/.625 with 29 homers and 98 RBI in 477 at-bats for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. In 2011, he came in at .329/.399/.533 with 23 homers and 100 RBI in 503 at-bats for Triple-A Omaha. Back at Omaha, he was hitting .314/.418/.500 with eight homers and 37 RBI so far this season.
Still, Robinson has never been taken very seriously. In fact, he was pretty lucky not to be released after such modest seasons in A ball at ages 23 and 24 in 2008 and ’09. He finished with OPSs of .806 and .819 those years, and if the Royals had other first base prospects they needed to play, they could have let him go.
Unfortunately, late bloomers with little defensive value generally don’t get many chances, if they get any at all. The Royals already have Eric Hosmer at first base and Billy Butler at DH, and those two simply aren’t budging. Robinson isn’t a candidate to play the oufield, so barring an injury to one of those two guys ahead of him, he’ll be little more than a pinch-hitter for the Royals, making it doubtful he’ll stick around for long.
Still, it’d be nice to see Robinson get a real chance. Unlike some quad-A players, he’s not a big strikeout guy. In fact, this year, he’s fanned just 31 times versus 38 walks in 220 at-bats. Robinson probably isn’t Bryan LaHair, but he’d deserve a look as a stopgap first baseman or designated hitter should any team need one.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”