CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox used a mix of their Cuban club tradition and new-school technology to lure prized prospect Luis Robert.
The money didn't hurt, either.
Robert was introduced at Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday after the $26 million signing of the 19-year-old outfielder became official.
Robert is the latest prospect added to the Chicago system, a process which began in the winter with trades of ace Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton. Chicago is rebuilding after one playoff appearance since 2005 and four straight losing seasons.
"We have been able to accomplish a lot in terms of spreading our (international) pools over the last several years, but now we have a chance to get potentially such an impactful talent," said Rick Hahn, the White Sox general manager and vice president. "In adding Luis to our organization, we feel like we have added another dynamic, potential impact talent."
The centerpiece prospect in the Sale deal with Yoan Moncada, a Cuban second baseman who could add to the White Sox lineage from the country that includes the late Minnie Minoso and current slugger Jose Abreu.
"I feel proud," said Robert through a translator. "Those players were examples in Cuba. For me to be wearing the same uniform, it's an honor."
During one of Hahn's trips to the Dominican Republic to scout Robert, he brought a virtual-reality presentation of Guaranteed Rate Field and the clubhouse narrated by manager Rick Renteria, along with video testimonials from Moncada, Abreu, and relief pitcher Michael Ynoa, a Dominican who shares a trainer with Robert.
"The video helped a lot, but the thing that made the decision was they were the team who showed the most interest in me," Robert said. "That made me feel good."
Marco Paddy, the White Sox head of international operations, scouted Robert since he was 14.
Paddy told Hahn over the winter that Robert's talent level was worth the investment, the final big-money bidding war allowed under the old collective bargaining agreement. The White Sox will have to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on the bonus.
Robert is projected as a center fielder with speed, a compact swing and power. He has not played in a game since last July.
Because of the time away, Hahn said Robert will head to the club's academy in the Dominican Republic and train toward joining the White Sox Dominican summer league team in the coming weeks.
But first, Robert enjoyed looking around his future digs on the southside before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Abreu during a sun-splashed doubleheader on a holiday weekend. His immediate plans include buying houses for his family, his uncle and himself.
He'll join peers such as Moncada, and hard-throwing pitchers Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have White Sox fans dreaming of a brighter future.
"The part that hit me the most (in the video) was when Ricky Renteria was talking straight to me saying that they are bringing me here to win several championships," Robert said.