Building an Orioles trade package for White Sox star Luis Robert Jr.

The Orioles have the pieces to trade for Luis Robert Jr, but does it make sense?
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago White Sox / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

It feels like the MLB season has just gotten underway, but here we are in the first week of June, over two months into the season. With more than a quarter of the campaign already in the rear view mirror, the division races are starting to take shape. While things are far from set in stone, one thing that is clear is the White Sox will not be playing for postseason glory this fall. 

At 15-48, they are by far the worst team in MLB, and on Thursday night it was announced that they are “actively seeking packages” for their superstar center fielder Luis Robert Jr., per MLB insider Jon Heyman.

Robert, who debuted in 2020, is 26 years old and on a six-year, $50 million contract that runs through the 2025 season, featuring team options for 2026 and 2027 at $20 million per season. The way his contract was set up, Robert is making $12.5 million this season and is scheduled to make $15 million next season, so any team looking to acquire Robert can have his services for about three and half years for approximately $63 million. 

With the White Sox looking to trade one of the top players in baseball, it would make sense for them to look to the team with the best farm system in baseball. The Baltimore Orioles are already overflowing with talent in the outfield, so trading for another star only makes sense if they’re willing to send some outfield prospects in return. The trick will be matching the White Sox needs.

The obvious choice to headline the return would be Heston Kjerstad. Kjerstad is the Orioles' fourth-best prospect (No. 21 overall) and has been dominating Triple-A pitching this season. He’s slashing .325/.406/.663 with a 1.069 OPS, all of which either lead or are among the leaders in the International League, while also leading the league in home runs (14) and RBI (50). The only knock on Kjerstad has been his defense, which has drastically improved in the outfield while he’s also developed into a decent first baseman. That just goes to show how hard Kjerstad works at his craft. He would likely be in the majors currently on most teams, but the Orioles are better than most. 

Should Orioles trade Heston Kjerstad, pitching for Luis Robert Jr.?

As good as Kjerstad has been, he won’t bring Robert to Baltimore on his own. Starting pitching is at a premium, and either Chayce McDermott or Cade Povich would have to join Kjerstad in the trip to Chicago. Povich, the Orioles' No. 9 prospect, has been having a brilliant season in Triple-A, pitching to a 5-1 record with a 3.18 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 56.2 innings (against just 21 walks). He’s had control issues in the minors, which were prevalent in his recent MLB debut, but Povich has the potential to be a dominant strikeout pitcher.

McDermott is the Birds' No. 8 prospect and has been about as good as Povich. He has a 3.81 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 52.0 innings this season. He also was the starter for his second combined no-hitter in as many seasons earlier this season.

Another one or two lesser known prospects could also be included to sweeten the deal, but the White Sox might not be looking for major league-ready talent. Not only are they the worst team in baseball, but they entered the season with the 20th ranked farm system, per They could be looking to do a full tear down and rebuild similarly to how the Orioles managed it, and acquiring prospects to play in the majors now when it takes three-to-five years to rebuild a franchise isn’t helpful. Still, the Orioles have options. 

If the O’s acquire Robert, he would be the center fielder of the future. That would make their No. 5 prospect, Enrique Bradfield Jr, expendable. Bradfield has been a speed demon in the Orioles system and has 50 steals in 63 minor league games. He won’t provide much power to the lineup, but he gets on base very well and does most of his damage from there. Bradfield also uses his elite speed to cover a ton of ground in center field. He has Gold Glove potential and drew several comparisons to Kenny Lofton when he was drafted.

Joining Bradfield in this version of the trade would be the Orioles' No. 10 prospect, Seth Johnson. The Birds acquired Johnson from the Tampa Bay Rays in the three-team trade that sent Trey Mancini to Houston (they received McDermott from the Astros in the same trade), and they’ve been very big on him. Baltimore quickly added Johnson to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft ,even though he had never pitched above High-A and had recently had Tommy John surgery. Johnson has rewarded the Orioles by pitching very well and quickly making his way up to Double-A Bowie. 

Both Bradfield and Johnson are very good prospects that should develop into very good major league players, but need more time in the minors to develop. Adding two or three lesser known prospects to this deal would make more sense for the White Sox if they want to do a tear down and rebuild. This version of the trade more closely resembles the Manny Machado trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought Dean Kremer to Baltimore. 

If the Orioles are able to pull off a trade for Robert, it would likely not be the only move they make. At least one of the five current outfielders the Orioles have on the major league roster would need to be moved, probably in a move to bring in a pitcher.

The Birds are a great team, and they've been rebuilt from the bottom up, harboring World Series aspirations. They could stay the course and still have a great chance to bring Baltimore its first championship since 1983, but the opportunity to add a player like Luis Robert should never be ignored.