St. Louis Cardinals: Top Cuban Prospect Luis Robert is a MUST Sign

Feb 18, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (right) listens as general manager John Mozeliak (left) talks with chairman and chief executive officer William O. DeWitt, Jr. (center) at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (right) listens as general manager John Mozeliak (left) talks with chairman and chief executive officer William O. DeWitt, Jr. (center) at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals are interested in top Cuban prospect Luis Robert and today it was announced that he will be an MLB free agent on May 20th.

The St. Louis Cardinals along with a number of other MLB teams received the great news today that Cuban star prospect Luis Robert will be an eligible MLB free agent on May 20th and can sign with whatever team he so chooses. Robert is 19-years old and already considered by many to be a generational talent and while his potential and skill level is important, the date of May 20th may be even more of an important variable to the Cardinals.

If Major League Baseball did not declare Robert to be an eligible free agent before mid-June, the Cardinals would not be able to be a contender for the outfield prospect. The St. Louis Cardinals have already exceeded their 2016-2017 international spending limits and would be severely limited to what they could offer and afford when it comes to future international amateurs after June.

But because Robert is eligible before the June deadline, the Cardinals can remain in the bidding war. Yes, they have exceeded their limits for this period but the tax and penalty for this period does not take effect until next period so they might as well continue to exceed it, especially for someone of Robert’s caliber.

The St. Louis Cardinals join a number of teams who are not restricted during the eventual Robert bidding war. Other teams like the Padres, Astros, and White Sox have all been named as teams that are known to be incredibly interested in the teen prospect. Meanwhile, teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Royals, and Giants will not be able to compete for Robert’s rights. They are limited this year because they exceeded their spending limits last year.

In recent history, the Cardinals have often avoided bidding wars on international amateur players because there were other bigger market teams in the auctions. However, now that a number of those teams are not in play this year, the Cardinals have a chance to spend money without that same level of competition and Robert may be the most worthy player of a high bid.

The St. Louis Cardinals have already scouted Robert and attended an informal workout in the Dominican Republic during spring training. Robert also held a showcase in early April in the Dominican Republic that a number of teams, including the Cardinals, sent scouts to. Now that Robert will be eligible, it will not be surprising to hear that he will hold private team workouts as well.

What is really interesting is that the St. Louis Cardinals have made comments in multiple interviews with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they saw this year as an opportunity to spend big on the international talent and they have backed their statements up so far. They have already signed Cuban players Jonatan Machado ($2.35M), Randy Arozarena ($1.25M), and Johan Oviedo ($1.9M) while also adding Venezuelan Victor Garcia ($1.5M). Robert alone will command more than what the Cardinals have already spent.

Aledmys Diaz, who signed for 4-years and $8 million, is the St. Louis Cardinals’ largest contract spending on a Cuban player. His contract expires this season but the Cardinals still possess 4 more years of control before Diaz can explore free agency.

As far as what type of player Robert is, Baseball America’s Ben Badler posted a scouting report back in March on the young outfielder:

"Robert has the talent of a first-round pick if he were in the draft. After he signs, he should be ready for an assignment to a low or high Class A affiliate. He has a strong, lean frame at 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, a wide back and quick-twitch athleticism. A righthanded hitter with excellent bat speed and a sound swing, Robert has plus power with room to continue filling out and increase that in the future.More from St Louis Cardinals NewsCardinals: Former MLB GM calls Jordan Walker a superstar for 2023Cardinals: Cubs looking to make major moves this offseasonSt. Louis Cardinals: New CBA rule encourages Jordan Walker’s promotionCardinals: These are the ways St. Louis can free up more payrollCardinals: First offseason acquisition is minor but speaks volumesThat all translated into a big year during the most recent 2016-17 season in Cuba. When Robert left Cuba in November, he was leading Serie Nacional in both OBP and slugging, batting .401/.526/.687 in 232 plate appearances. He drew 38 walks (10 intentional) with 30 strikeouts, 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 17 attempts.Robert’s production does come with some swing-and-miss tendencies. He has a habit of swinging through high fastballs and has had trouble laying off breaking balls down and away, though at times he’s shown the ability to resist those pitches. He can hammer pitches to right-center field and is at his best when he stays through the middle of the field, but he can get too pull-oriented in games."

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Robert should easily call for more than what the previous Cuban prospects have received and the St. Louis Cardinals should easily oblige. He looks to be a generational talent and with the spending limit situation as well as the depth of the system being compromised by the hacking penalties, the Cardinals have all the motivation they need to capitalize on this opportunity.