Free agency could be coming soon for Cuban outfielder Luis Robert.
While nothing is finalized or certain yet, indications are that Major League Baseball will likely clear Robert to sign during the current 2016-17 signing period, which closes on June 15.
That would be a positive development for Robert, a talented 19-year-old currently training in the Dominican Republic. The new rules that include hard caps on international spending begin after the 2016-17 signing period closes on June 15. Until then, while there are international bonus pools in place and penalties for exceeding them, there isn’t a ceiling on what a team could pay him like there will be under the new rules.
On the field, Robert had a private workout with the Astros at their complex in the Dominican Republic, where he hit a home run against live pitching. After that, Robert postponed workouts with other clubs, with Robert’s camp informing those teams that Robert had come down with the flu.
Robert does have a private workout scheduled for Friday with the Athletics and next week with the Reds, Baseball America has learned. The White Sox, Padres and Cardinals are among the other teams also expected to hold individual workouts with Robert.
All of those teams except for the White Sox have already exceeded their bonus pools for the current 2016-17 signing period. As long as MLB clears Robert to sign before June 15, those teams that have already gone over are the most likely to sign Robert.
Those teams are already facing two years in the penalty box of being unable to sign any international amateur player for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods, so signing Robert wouldn’t trigger any new penalties for them. The Braves and Nationals are the two other teams that have also gone over their 2016-17 bonus pools.
The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals won’t be players for Robert, since they are in the penalty for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 signing periods, which means they won’t be able to offer more than $300,000 in either period.