Cuban free agnet outfielder Luis Robert reportedly agreed to a deal with the White Sox on Saturday worth more than $25 million. (File) 

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals added a 19-year-old international player to their organization on Saturday, but it wasn’t the one they really wanted.

The trade of Matt Adams to the Braves brought infielder Juan Yepez to the Cardinals just a couple of hours after the team learned they would not be signing Cuban free agent outfielder Luis Robert.

Robert agreed to a deal reportedly worth at least $25 million with the Chicago White Sox.

While the exact details of how much the Cardinals offered Robert, considered the best amateur player in the world, was not known, general manager John Mozeliak said he thought the Cardinals had been aggressive in their pursuit of Robert.

“I don’t know if we finished second,” he said about the Cardinals’ bid. “All I know is we didn’t sign him. All negotiations have different nuances, all negotiations have different risk, all negotiations have different types of upside and this was a unique opportunity for us because we historically aren’t trying to sign these types of players.

“I don’t second-guess our strategy or second-guess our approach. Some things just aren’t meant to be.”

If the Cardinals had signed Robet, they would have had to match his signing bonus with a dollar=for-dollar penalty since they had already blown well past their cap for international players in the current signing period.

The penalty for exceeding the cap also means the Cardinals will not be able to sign international players for more than a $300,000 bonus for each of the next two years.

That restriction, plus the absence of their top three picks in this year’s amateur draft, prompted the Cardinals to make a serious run at Robert. Had he signed with the Cardinals, Robert would have become the second best prospect in the organization, behind Alex Reyes.

The Cardinals signed several international players this year for seven figure bonuses, including four other Cuban free agents.

“I’m very excited about the players we have signed; obviously we tried to do something more and we didn’t get it done,” Mozeliak said. “It’s a competitive world out there. Everybody has different value sets and how they think about it.

“I don’t look at today as if we lost something. In this case somebody out-bid us.”

The White Sox were not over their signing cap, but based on the penalty they will have to pay, adding Roberts will cost them about $45 million in his signing bonus and the penalty involved.

Mozeliak said it is difficult to try to establish the value of a player such as Robert, partially because he came from Cuba, and doesn’t have the normal set of statistics and game experience for scouts to evaluate and compare to other players.

“I think our baseball development staff positioned us well,” Mozeliak said. “I thought the effort from behind the scenes was there and that the scouts did a great job.”

The White Sox had emerged earlier in the week as the Cardinals’ biggest competition for Robert with several other teams dropping out when the bidding began to exceed $20 million.

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