The White Sox signed prized left-field prospect Eloy Jimenez to a multiyear contract extension before he played a major-league game, and now they are doing the same with equally treasured center-field prospect Luis Robert.
Robert, who was named USA Today’s minor-league player of the year after running roughshod at three levels in 2019, agreed to terms with the Sox on a guaranteed six-year, $50 million contract, with team options of $20 million in 2026 and 2027 or a $2 million buyout in either year. The deal paves the way for him to wear No. 88 in center field on Opening Day against the Royals on March 26 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
By signing Jimenez to a six-year, $43 million deal during spring training last March, the likelihood of the Sox holding him back a few weeks for service-time issues was eliminated. The same goes for Robert, whose deal calls for him to make $1.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in 2021, $6 million in 2022, $9.5 million in 2023, $12.5 million in 2024 and $15 million in 2025.
‘‘Hopefully this year I will finally make my dream come true of playing in the big leagues,’’ Robert said in a statement. ‘‘I risked everything when I left Cuba to pursue this dream, and now I know the whole process and all my sacrifices will be rewarded. My next step is to keep working as hard as ever, but now with more dedication and desire to help my team achieve our ultimate goal of winning championships.’’
The Sox, who have been adept at signing young players to long-term deals well before they are eligible for free agency, are the only team to give extensions to two players with no major-league service time. Robert was thought to be a tougher sell because he already had security from the $26 million signing bonus he received when the Sox won his services in the international market in 2017. The Sox also paid $26 million in luxury taxes to sign Robert.
This deal is the largest for a player with no major-league experience, surpassing Jimenez’s contract, which could reach $75 million if both option years are picked up.
‘‘Luis is a hugely talented player,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said. ‘‘As he showed at three levels in 2019, Luis has the ability to impact a game dramatically with his bat, his speed, his glove and his arm. We see him as a very important part of a talented core of position players who we anticipate will be competing together with the White Sox for many seasons to come.’’
Robert, 22, batted .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs and 36 stolen bases in the minor leagues in 2019, including 16 homers in 47 games at Class AAA Charlotte. He was the first minor-leaguer since Joc Pederson in 2014 to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season.
Hahn emphasized the signing is more about the long term than 2020, the expectations for which have grown this offseason with free agents Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Encarnacion added to a young core.
‘‘There will be growing pains [for Robert]; it’s going to be a learning process,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We saw how big-league pitchers treated Eloy early in the season, and we’re going to see a similar treatment with Luis and a similar evolution of the skill set over the course of his time at the big-league level.’’
A confident Robert said he’s ‘‘100 percent certain’’ he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.
‘‘All those good wishes that people are sending me, it’s motivating me more for what is coming in the future,’’ he said through a translator.
To make room for Robert on their 40-man roster, the Sox designated right-hander Tayron Guerrero for assignment.