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Rick Hahn acknowledges potential fit with Luis Robert

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Parsing the White Sox GM's words 10 days before Cuban prospect can sign

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Hahn really can’t say anything specific about Luis Robert, the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder who is clear to sign with a Major League Baseball club as soon as May 20. But with Baseball America reporting that Hahn and Kenny Williams attended a private workout in the Dominican Republic, he had to say something.

What he said, at least in text form, was mildly encouraging. Here’s Scot Gregor’s account:

"I've seen the publications that have had us in the mix and certainly understand why people would believe we'd be in the mix, given how nicely he could conceivably fit with not only what we're trying to do in a rebuild but our history with similar such players," Hahn said. [...]

"I expect the bidding for this player will be extremely robust," Hahn said. "He's an extremely talented young man who is going to have an impact on whatever organization he winds up joining, and given the fact the collective-bargaining agreement changes how these players are treated these next few weeks, this is really the last opportunity for certain clubs to exercise strictly their financial might in order to receive such a talent."

This could be seen as a mere restatement of facts. When Hahn can't or doesn't want to answer a question, he tends to break down at great length the topic into indisputable chunks in place of a candid opinion. It's safer than a shutdown (see the Carlos Rodon situation, about which the Sox are still being weird).

In Robert's case, there are publications who have said the White Sox are pursuing Robert. They have reasons to pursue him. The bidding will be high. He's talented. The CBA will soon make this kind of opportunity impossible. These are all things I, a guy 821 miles away from Chicago and farther from the Dominican, have said.

The hope is that Hahn wouldn't bring up the last part on his own volition if his front office weren't gearing up to take advantage of the closing window itself, especially since the other teams involved in the bidding are not the traditional Rockefellers (Cardinals, Padres, A's, Astros, Reds). There'd be some resignation if the Sox lost out to the Yankees or Dodgers along the lines of the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, but not so much when it involves markets equal to or smaller than Chicago.

Since the last time we sized up Robert's market, Yoan Moncada exploded. The Sox' top prospect cut his strikeout rate by 5 percent while enhancing his overall line to .345/.419/.549, the defensive reports have been promising, and nobody on the depth chart is making a better use of the time at second. The 25-man roster isn't material to a prospect's development in a rebuilding year, but the methodical way Moncada is checking off liabilities makes it difficult for Hahn to slow others' rolls.

One problem with promoting Moncada immediately is that it takes a little magic out of the rebuilding. He is the reason why CSN Chicago chose to broadcast Charlotte Knights games, and he's the reason why a lot of Chicago outlets are suddenly hanging out in North Carolina and Indianapolis. Carson Fulmer and Zack Burdi and Nicky Delmonico may join him in or beat him to Chicago, but they were all in Charlotte last year and, relatively speaking, nobody cared.

Once he's called up, there isn't a position-player prospect who projects to an everyday role until A-ball. Zack Collins and Luis Alexander Basabe have both wobbled out of the gate in Winston-Salem, and Alex Call has been hurt. If Moncada struggles the way Fulmer did last year and Tim Anderson has this year, the lack of depth makes the next year and a half feel a lot longer.

Having Robert in the system -- and perhaps some shiny new prospects from the draft -- makes it easier to weather any early Moncada struggles. And if Moncada hits from Day One and the Sox are still losing games 6-2, the conversation eventually returns to the same question: "Who else do we have?" Based on the scouting consensus, Robert would help replace a lot of the minor-league buzz that Moncada takes with him. It's not that the Sox need to let the coverage dictate their approach, but that there needs to be more than one position player everybody is breathless about.