The White Sox tumultuous offseason continued Thursday when the organization reportedly agreed to terms with their top prospect -- outfielder Luis Robert -- on a long-term contract extension. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal includes $50 million guaranteed over six years and could be worth as much as $88 million over eight years, thanks to a pair of $20 million club options. The 22-year-old Cuban native is on the precipice of his major-league debut after recording a sublime .328/.376/.624 triple-slash line with 32 home runs, 92 RBI, 36 stolen bases, and 108 runs scored in 122 games combined between High-A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham, and Triple-A Charlotte last year.
From a pure fantasy standpoint, Robert possesses an electrifying power-speed combination starter kit necessary to evolve into an immediate five-category fantasy stud. He effortlessly fuses the size and strength of a linebacker with the quick-twitch athleticism and blazing speed of a wide receiver to launch tape-measure home runs while also wreaking havoc on the basepaths. His propensity to swing-and-miss -- he struck out nearly a quarter of the time in 223 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte -- is the long bugaboo in an otherwise flawless offensive profile. Even a marginal improvement in his plate skills would transform Robert into a run-producing, middle-of-the-order masher for years to come.
There’s an extremely wide range of potential outcomes, especially in re-draft formats, but with potential service time tomfoolery eliminated from the equation, he’s a much safer fantasy investment and a virtual lock to emerge as the White Sox starting center fielder on Opening Day. Even if his contact issues persist in his first exposure to big-league pitchers, he should provide enough over-the-fence power, steals and counting stats to finish as a top 30 fantasy outfielder this season. With the risk of being relegated to minor-league purgatory off the table, Robert’s fantasy stock will undoubtedly skyrocket this spring. Per NFBC average draft position data, he’s been selected as the 29th outfielder off the board (108th overall) on average in early drafts so far. That’s an eighth-round pick in 15-team mixed leagues. It wouldn’t be shocking to see his stock rise into the late-fifth, early-sixth round (70-to-90th overall) range once the pre-season hype machines inflate his price tag.
Through a series of high-profile free agent acquisitions including Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Dallas Keuchel, while also re-signing Jose Abreu and trading for Nomar Mazara, the White Sox have made a concerted effort to accelerate their rebuilding effort and become legitimate contenders in the AL Central this upcoming season. Ensuring that their top position player prospect is on the Opening Day roster is merely further proof that they’re committed to making a serious playoff push right.
According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, Robert is only the fifth player (Jon Singleton, Evan White, Scott Kingery and Eloy Jimenez) to receive a long-term contract extension with zero major-league service time. He’s a bit of a unique case since he originally signed a minor-league deal, which included a hefty $26 million signing bonus back, as an international free agent back in May, 2017. However, if he eventually blossoms into the offensive force many evaluators envision, there’s an extremely high probability that he’s left some money on the table down the road. No player should ever be criticized for making a decision to accept a contract extension that guarantees long-term financial security for themselves and their families. That’s not the real issue in this case and others like it. As Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Craig Goldstein tweeted on Thursday, the threat of service time manipulation (effectively delaying their future payday via free agency) -- which Robert almost certainly would’ve been subjected to this upcoming season -- continues to be used by major-league front offices as leverage in their negotiations with minor-league prospects.
We’ve witnessed an uptick in young players with limited (or zero) big-league experience accepting long-term contracts recently. Perhaps the most notable examples of this phenomenon occurred when the dynamic duo at the epicenter of the Braves’ young nucleus -- Ronald Acuña Jr. (eight years, $100 million) and Ozzie Albies (seven years, $35 million) -- accepted deals that are widely-viewed as extremely team-friendly last April. Again, there’s nothing wrong with either Albies, Acuña, or Robert accepting a contract that they firmly believe is in their best interest. The broader issue here is that the collectively bargained system, through the threat of service time manipulation, is being used to suppress the salaries of players that end up pursuing long-term deals. Minor leaguers aren’t members of the MLB Players Union, so they don’t even have a voice to speak out against this problem and a myriad of other critical issues. Yet, there is some hope that these issues can be resolved, or at least addressed in some meaningful way, in the next collective bargaining agreement simply because increasing salaries of younger players would make veteran alternatives more attractive on the free agent market. It’s an issue fantasy owners and baseball fans should be monitoring during next offseason’s negotiations.
German Receives 81-Game Suspension
After a nearly 15-week investigation, Major League Baseball has suspended Yankees right-hander Domingo German for 81 games. The suspension is retroactive to his placement on administrative leave back on September 19. As a result, he'll have to sit out the first 63 games of the 2020 campaign. The 27-year-old right-hander allegedly slapped his girlfriend during an argument after a September 16 charity event. No criminal charges were filed, yet MLB still ended up issuing one of the longest suspensions ever levied under its domestic violence and abuse policy. German will be eligible to return to the Yankees’ starting rotation in early-June.
Rockies Ponder Potential Arenado Trade
Less than 12 months after signing an eight-year, $260 million contract extension with the Rockies, there’s a realistic chance that third baseman Nolan Arenado could be dealt this offseason. According to a report by Jon Morosi of MLB Network Thursday, Arenado “has roughly a 50/50 chance” of being traded this offseason. Per numerous reports, the division-rival Dodgers have expressed serious interest, but Morosi has noted that they wouldn’t be a realistic trade partner, since the Rockies would obviously prefer not to deal him within the NL West. It’s also extremely unlikely that Los Angeles would be willing to include their top prospect, infielder Gavin Lux, in any potential deal. The Braves, Rangers, Nationals, and Cardinals have also been connected to the star third baseman.
Arenado’s contract includes a full no-trade clause, so he'll have the final say in where he ends up, but this latest report is a fascinating development in the ongoing saga. Given the way his contract is structured, the 28-year-old slugger can opt in two years, which makes it incredibly difficult for a potential trade partner to justify giving up a substantial prospect haul (which would need to be headlined by an elite prospect) that he’s likely to command. It’s a situation worth monitoring closely over the remainder of the offseason.
American League Quick Hits: According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Angels have agreed to terms with free agent catcher Jason Castro on a one-year, $6.85 million contract … According to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, the Dodgers are at least as involved in trade discussions with the Red Sox regarding Mookie Betts as they are with the Indians concerning Francisco Lindor … Red Sox signed C Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, $900,000 contract and designated 1B Sam Travis for assignment … White Sox designated RHP Tayron Guerrero for assignment … Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos is "said to be close to making a decision.” … Yankees manager Aaron Boone has told reporters that he expects Miguel Andujar (shoulder) to be ready for the start of spring training.
National League Quick Hits: Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent RHP Will Harris on a three-year, $24 million contract … According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Reds, Cardinals, and Rangers "appear to be the frontrunners" for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna … According to David O'Brien of The Athletic, the Braves have made a four-year offer to free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson. The 34-year-old veteran slugger is also believed to have four-year offers on the table from the Nationals and Twins as well … Dellin Betances (shoulder, Achilles) said Thursday that he expects to be ready for spring training … Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News reported Wednesday that the Marlins have expressed interest in outfielder Kim Jae-Hwan … Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post reported Wednesday that the Rockies are "investigating" trading relievers Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw … Reds signed infielder Matt Davidson to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.