CHICAGO -- Luis Robert will be the White Sox center fielder on Opening Day in 2020 and for many years to come after agreeing to a six-year, $50 million contract, including two team options, on Thursday.
Under terms of the deal, Robert, 22, will receive $1.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in '21, $6 million in '22, $9.5 million in '23, $12.5 million in '24 and $15 million in '25. The White Sox hold $20-million options for both '26 and '27, with $2 million buyouts for either season.
All of this comes for a multi-talented young man who has never taken a single at-bat or played a single inning at the big league level. It’s an indication of how this move affects the White Sox in the present, but it has even greater ramifications for what they expect from Robert and the developing team in the future.
“People are understandably focused on what this potentially means for our Opening Day roster, but at the same time, the motivation for a deal like this is to put us in position for the long term,” said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn during a Thursday evening conference call. “We think the world of Luis and his upside and are willing to invest in that prior to seeing him at the big league level, just like we did with Eloy [Jiménez].
“Both of those deals are about trying to keep this core in place for the long term, put us in position to extend what we anticipate to be a window opening here for as long as possible. I understand the focus on the 2020 season, but this is really much more about the long term and having Luis Robert patrolling center field for hopefully the next eight years in a White Sox uniform.”
Jiménez agreed to a similar zero-service-time deal during Spring Training in 2019, placing him under contract for six years at $43 million with club options for 2025-26. Robert originally came to the White Sox from Cuba on May 27, 2017, in a deal that included a $26 million signing bonus.
Now, Jiménez and Robert will work together as part of a dynamic outfield for what the White Sox hope is a championship-laden future. Robert already had heard from Jiménez, third baseman Yoán Moncada and first baseman José Abreu after the deal was announced.
“It's going to be fun,” said Robert through interpreter Billy Russo on the same conference call. “All those good wishes that people are sending me, it's motivating me more for what is coming in the future. I'm going to work harder, and I'm going to do my best to help this team win multiple championships. I know we're going to be able to do it because we have very good players.”
Over 122 games and 503 at-bats, the right-handed-hitting Robert posted a .328/.376/.624 slash line to go with 32 home runs, 31 doubles, 11 triples, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. While Robert will have a learning curve in March/April, much as Jimenez went through when opposing teams pitched him more like a 10-year-veteran during his debut, his addition is as big as any other of the plethora of moves made by the White Sox this offseason.
It reinforces American League Central contention for the White Sox in 2020, with Robert starting from Opening Day on March 26 at home against the Royals, as opposed to a brief Minor League stint first.
“I'm 100 percent convinced I'm going to be on the Opening Day roster,” Robert said. “It definitely helps me to be more calm, or relaxed, because I know what I need to do, and I already know where I'm going to start the season. But at the same time, it gives me an extra motivation because that was my dream and I know this year I'm going to be able to make my dream come true.”
Robert will wear jersey No. 88, which he wore last year during Spring Training.
Hahn added talks with Robert’s representation began last September, picked up steam with face-to-face meetings at the Winter Meetings and culminated with a deal over the last few days.
“It's not for Luis about securing the money,” Hahn said. “It's about being somewhere for a long time and winning with that organization and doing what he can to win.”
“Last year I felt very good in the Minors,” Robert said. “I was very comfortable with my work and with the results I was getting. I feel, at this point, I just need to have experience of playing in the Major Leagues and see what areas I need to improve or make adjustments.”
The White Sox also designated right-handed pitcher Tayron Guerrero for assignment on Thursday. The team had claimed Guerrero off waivers from the Marlins on Dec. 6.