I hate to cut in on a nice article from our own Trooper Galactus, but Luis Torres just published some flaccid criticism of the exploitative nature of the Luis Robert deal over at sister site Beyond the Box Score, and it more of less pins my b.s.-o-meter.
I get it, any young player who signs a juicy deal without playing a game in the majors is being exploited, and meanwhile players nearing or passing 30 with piles of WAR shouldn’t get the moola because that’s a “dumb” strategy in today’s game (Torres doesn’t address this point, but certainly the metrics approach has infiltrated baseball to the degree that 32-start, 32-year-old, 2.2-bWAR starter Gio González only got a minor league contract offer last offseason).
It’s fair to examine just how “good” (or “bad”) a deal the White Sox made in guaranteeing $52 million to Robert, a player with zero career MLB games and one professional season of as many as 121 games. I hate to say it, but while there’s always the cotton-candy caveat with deals like this that a player can suffer a career-threatening injury and thus fall far short of providing promised value to the team, in Robert’s case the threat is real.
He’s had two pro seasons in the States. The 2018 campaign was marred with injuries, including two thumb ligament sprains that delayed his debut into June and zapped his regular season power down to zero home runs. And even last year, Robert was hit by a pitch at Winston-Salem, missed a week, and at least briefly sent the entire fan base into a here we go again tizzy.
But even if Robert had no injury history to speak of, how much money do the White Sox have to guarantee Robert for this contract not to be considered highway robbery? Torres has the gall to compare this deal to that of Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies a year ago, although to be fair Torres says Robert’s deal is “not as grossly exploitative.”
Let’s review how the Braves picked Albies’ pocket last April: a seven-year extension that nets the young superstar $35 million. Options? Yeah, there are two option years, pushing max value to nine years, $45 million. That deal is utter larceny, and short of Albies’ personal sense he has knees made of butter, he and his representation whiffed badly. Still, if Albies wanted that deal and its security, OK. Just don’t expect a Christmas card from the players’ union.
Robert’s deal bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to Albies, so you can shove that charitable “not as grossly exploitative,” BTBS. Robert is getting a guaranteed $52 million over six years, and if he is the kickass monster we all hope he is (or even just a pretty damn good player), the White Sox will nearly double that outlay in the next two years, giving Robert $90 million over eight seasons. And if Robert is Mike Trout, or even just Miguelito Trout, surely by 2027 the White Sox will have dropped the contract in the shredder and sidled up to Robert with one of them “Machado” offers, this time done right.
And by no stretch is Torres’ rancid hot take unique. Almost as fast as the Robert extension was announced came the ninnied hand-wringing that accompanies any possible exploitation inherent in the system:
Just because the Luis Robert extension formula (leverage the minors to get a below-market value deal) isn’t new doesn’t mean we should be happy about it. New from me: https://t.co/iAwohM3gWx pic.twitter.com/DCkU5JwRh4— ginny searle (@ginnysearle) January 6, 2020
Because this is relevant once again. While I'm happy #WhiteSox OF Luis Robert will be landing $50M, contracts like this do more harm than good for #MLB players in the long run.https://t.co/i2vlahrkGD— Matt Johnson (@MattJ_Sports) January 2, 2020
Of course, on the other hand ...
Luis Robert is the 5th player to receive a contract extension with 0 days of MLB service time in his career at the time.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) January 2, 2020
That makes the White Sox the only team to hand out 2 such extensions -- to Robert & Jiménez.
Listen, the system needs revamping, no doubt. That’s why the White Sox need a miracle run to the World Series in the next couple of seasons before 2022, and possibly baseball as we know it, is wiped out. But citing a guy due for $90 million before age 30 might not be the most efficient way to illustrate the biases inherent in the system.
If you want to dog me as carrying water for the White Sox front office, fine — although I’m sure there are some in the suite class there who will be surprised to learn of my owning such status.
Just, be fair. “Not as grossly exploitative?” “The White Sox really do not deserve a lot of credit here?” C’mon, already. Give us a week to enjoy a win-win deal for team and player, before the news cycle is invariably dominated by a dumb trade, injury, or scissor-sliced throwbacks, please.
And enjoy a bit of inspiration: