White Sox, Robert agree to $50 million, 6-year contract

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CHICAGO (AP)The Chicago White Sox and Luis Robert agreed Thursday to a $50 million, six-year contract, clearing the way for the prized outfielder to open the season in the majors.

The deal, which also includes club options for 2026 and 2027, removes the incentive for the White Sox to keep the 22-year-old Cuban off their opening day roster to limit his service time and delay his eventual free agency.

”I risked everything when I left Cuba to pursue this dream, and now I know the whole process and all my sacrifices will be rewarded,” Robert said in a statement. ”My next step is to keep working as hard as ever, but now with more dedication and desire to help my team achieve our ultimate goal of winning championships.”

Robert combined to hit .328 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 108 runs and 36 stolen bases last season at Class A, Double-A and Triple-A. He was the first minor leaguer since Joc Pederson in 2014 with at least 30 homers and 30 steals and the first White Sox prospect to do it since at least 1988. Robert ranked among the minor league leaders in total bases (tied for second), hits (fourth), extra-base hits (fourth) runs (fifth) and triples (tied for sixth).

Robert has hit .312 over three minor league seasons. Chicago signed him as an international free agent on May 27, 2017.

”Luis is a hugely talented player who showed his unique set of impressive skills last season and who we believe will be making an impact at the Major League level during the 2020 season,” general manager Rick Hahn said. ”As he showed at three levels in 2019, Luis has the ability to impact a game dramatically with his bat, his speed, his glove and his arm. We see him as a very important part of a talented core of position players who we anticipate will be competing together with the White Sox for many seasons to come.”

Robert is due $1.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in 2021, $6 million in 2022, $9.5 million in 2023, $12.5 million in 2024 and $15 million in 2025. The White Sox hold $20-million options for 2026 and 2027, with $2 million buyouts for each season.

The deal is similar to the $43 million, six-year contract the White Sox signed with then-prospect Eloy Jimenez last March. Jimenez made Chicago’s opening day roster and was in the big leagues all season.

Without the long-term deal, the White Sox could have delayed Robert’s free agency by a year if they kept him in the minors for 15 days this season. That sort of apparent manipulation of a young player’s service time has become a regular practice and is the subject of an unresolved union grievance against the Chicago Cubs regarding Kris Bryant.

The deal is just the latest big money move by a team hoping to challenge in the AL Central after seven straight losing seasons. The White Sox have added catcher Yasmani Grandal ($73 million, four years), slugger Edwin Encarnacion ($12 million, one year) and pitchers Dallas Keuchel ($55.5 million, three years) and Gio Gonzalez ($5 million, one year). They also brought back slugger Jose Abreu on a $50 million, three-year deal and acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers.

Robert figures to join a young core of hitters in the majors that includes Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Jimenez. Keuchel and Gonzalez will join a rotation led by All-Star Lucas Giolito that also features Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease. Promising young right-hander Michael Kopech is also expected to return following Tommy John surgery.

The White Sox also designated right-handed pitcher Tayron Guerrero for assignment.

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