The conditions are right for Luis Robert to be the White Sox center fielder come Opening Day.
The White Sox announced Thursday a long-term contract with Robert, the organization's top-ranked prospect and the No. 3 prospect in the game. Worth $50 million over six years and as much as $88 million with a pair of options, the deal could keep Robert in a White Sox uniform through the 2027 season.
The news mirrors what happened with Eloy Jimenez a year ago, when the then top-ranked prospect in the organization signed his own long-term deal, wiping out any service-time concerns and allowing him to make his big-league debut on Opening Day.
While the White Sox have never said nor will ever say that they've made decisions based on service time, it has become an unavoidable trend in the game for teams to delay major league debuts so that players do not accrue a full year of service time in their rookie season, giving teams an added year of control on the end of a rookie contract. Most notably, the Cubs delayed Kris Bryant's debut until a couple weeks into the 2015 season, the year in which he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Bryant's current grievance that could affect his upcoming free agency might have an impact on teams' decisions moving forward.
But the White Sox eliminated such concerns when they gave that contract to Jimenez last spring and have now done the same thing with Robert.
While the White Sox opted to keep Robert in the minor leagues in September, he undoubtedly appears ready for the big-league stage. A true five-tool threat, he dominated the minors last season, putting up insane numbers playing at three different levels. In 122 games, Robert slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases, all while earning high marks for his work in the outfield, as well.
This goes along with the rest of the White Sox incredible amount of offseason activity to date, the signings of Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, the trade for Nomar Mazara and the reported — though not yet official — signing of Edwin Encarnacion. The moves have dramatically improved the roster, as well as both the short- and long-term prospects of the team. This is what White Sox fans were waiting for as the rebuild moved along, and every move has stuck to Rick Hahn's rebuilding plans.
With no service-time issues to worry about, Robert figures to be the White Sox starting center fielder for the season-opener March 26 at Guaranteed Rate Field. It's win-now time on the South Side. Buckle up, folks.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.