Could the Houston Astros be out to sign Cuban outfielder Luis Robert?
Last year, the Houston Astros surprised many people around baseball by signing Yulieski Gurriel. Recently, Jeff Luhnow and company have invested into the international free agent market. When you look at the Astros top prospect lists, many of them have come from international markets. Despite spending big in Gurriel, are the Astros going after the next big name out of Cuba?
That player’s name consists of two first names in Luis Robert. According to Ben Badler, the Astros were one of many teams to attend 19-year-old Robert’s showcase in the Dominican Republic. He said that the Astros had “high-ranking team officials in attendance.”
With opening day on Monday, I doubt that Jeff Luhnow went to the Dominican to attend this showcase. Maybe Mike Elias and some other high-level scouts were probably there. With the rumors out there that Kyle Tucker is being asked for in a trade for Jose Quintana, it wouldn’t hurt to add depth.
If Tucker is included, Robert could replace him on the outfield depth chart. The Astros have already exceeded the 2016-17 international bonus pool, so why not go over with style? Badler reported that the Stros have a private workout with Robert next week.
Robert is waiting for the MLB to clear him to be able to sign according to Badler. The Astros would then need to sign him before the current period ends on June 15th. Should the Stros not sign him by then, under the new CBA, it will hard with a hard cap on the international bonus pool.
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Any team that signs him now can do so without restrictions, according to Badler. If he is not cleared before June 15th, Badler states that Stros will be out of the picture. However, Houston would have to pay double for whatever bonus Robert gets for being over the threshold. Robert could be worth paying that.
Robert was supposed to replace Gurriel as the face of Cuban baseball. However, with the new CBA, Robert decided to defect now before the rule took effect. Unlike Gurriel, Robert is still young and could be better than Yoenis Cespedes. He is described as having raw power and plus speed, but he hopes to develop his skills in America.
Last year in Cuba, Robert had a slash line of .393/ .520/ .674/ 1.194 with 12 homers and 11 stolen bases in 54 games. He plays centerfield, but could eventually move to the corners. Everyone will be going for this guy, with the rules about to change. Let’s see how the private workout goes.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***