The Hangover: A Missed Opportunity

The Luis Robert sweepstakes opened and closed on Saturday, with the Chicago White Sox and Robert agreeing to a deal in the neighborhood of $25 million by early afternoon. It’s almost like negotiations started before Saturday.

At this point, it’s kind of difficult to find much more to say about Robert and the Padres, given all the coverage he’s received right here at Padres Publicover at Gwynntelligence, and elsewhere in the Padres corner of the internet. My opinion remains unchanged: that losing out on Robert—even though the total price would have been in the $50-$55 million range—stings for a couple of major reasons.

  1. Robert is really good. He’s probably a cut below Yoan Moncada, subject of past Padres flirtation, but I’m not sure if the gap is as big as some think, and Moncada’s arguably the best prospect going right now. Maybe Yasiel Puig is a better comp, and despite his occasional struggles, he’s a special player. Robert, if everything works out, could be ready for the bigs in a couple of years, good timing for when the Padres are anticipated to get serious about winning again.
  2. There aren’t a lot of logical alternatives to spend the money. Again, this has been discussed in some detail, but where are the Padres going to spend the ~$50some million they saved by passing on Robert? Certainly not in the amateur draft, where bonus pools tap out at $14 or $15 million, and not in the international amateur market, either, with the new hard cap in place (plus two years of spending restrictions for the Padres). There’s just no guarantee that this money saved will go toward improving the team on the field in other areas—and let’s face it, this team could use some new shutters or something.

As others have stated, the Padres most recent work in the international market was about building relationships, finding the right players, and orchestrating a sound plan that was concocted over months (if not years). And it all worked out, really well, with ownership buying in. A.J. Preller is easily the most accomplished general manager in the game in foreign affairs, and other higher-ups like Chris Kemp are equally as engrossed in the process.

Robert, on the other hand, was about writing a big, fat check, because everyone already knows how good he is and he became available so late in the game. Like many times in the past, we saw that the Padres weren’t quite willing to go that far financially, which remains disappointing.

It doesn’t diminish the overall work that’s been done internationally, of course, or the general direction of the franchise (which is pointed up, despite the opinions of some national baseball writers). It still hurts, though. You either pony up for Robert or you don’t, and $50 million is never something to scoff at, even in baseball’s current market. But you either end up with Robert or without him, price tag be damned, and without him is what the Padres chose.

It’s the less desirable choice.

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